The news goes out – from broadcast antennas, communications satellites – reaching millions of homes. Megan McLaren appears on televisions and monitors and she greets America, before reminding them that the super team known as the Thunderbolts has been much in the public eye recently, from their splashy debut as heroes, so the stunning revelation that they were actually the Masters of Evil, posing as heroes as part of a plan for global domination, however, since then, there has been an apparent split in their ranks, as the bulk of the team helped foil their leader's plans, and has since been acting as heroes again, battling such menaces as a robotic Hulk, Graviton and the new Masters of Evil, while there has been much debate over whether they have actually reformed, or are merely attempting another deception. Footage of the Thunderbolts battling Graviton appears, before changing to a photo taken by a Colorado news photographer, of two of the Thunderbolts being rescued from a national guard cordon by Hawkeye, the well-known Avenger. Megan concludes by reporting that why Hawkeye is aiding the Thunderbolts, and whether he is doing it of his own free will, is unknown at this time.
The news goes out, and one of the homes it is broadcast is a certain mansion in Fifth Avenue, Manhattan – headquarters of the mighty Avengers, where in the communications room, Steve Rogers a.k.a. Captain America is frustrated that he can't raise Hawkeye on his Communicard. Cap declares that Hawkeye hasn't responded to their calls since Iron Man last spoke to him, and that was weeks ago. Cap turns to Angelica Jones a.k.a. Firestar and asks her how she is coming along. The newest member of the Avengers is sitting next to Cap and reports that Hawkeye's card's locator chip has been shut off, but that there is no way to know whether he did it or the Thunderbolts did it. She sits at a computer and informs Captain America that she has just put the override program on automatic – it will keep trying until it breaks through the card's lock and tells them where Hawkeye is. Vance Astrovik a.k.a. Justice sits at the meeting room table, while Captain America declares that they have to make finding Hawkeye a priority, as the Thunderbolts mentally controlled the Avengers before – and there is no way he is going to let them do it twice.
'Ah, Cap? Remember it was Baron Zemo who did that – and the Thunderbolts helped us overthrow him. This may not be what you're assuming it is' Wanda Maximoff a.k.a. the Scarlet Witch points out as she and the recently rescurrected Simon Williams a.k.a. Wonder Man enter the communications room, arms around each other. 'If I'm wrong, Wanda, I'll apologize. But until Clint's safe, I -' Cap starts to reply, before Firestar interrupts him, alerting him to a monitor, where Dr Henry Pym a.k.a. Giant Man appears. 'Firestar says you've got things on automatic, Cap. If I could ask you all to come to lab four – I've got something to show you' Hank announces.
Everyone leaves the communications room, and Justice informs Wonder Man that he saw Arkon IV on tape last night. 'We're here, Hank. What's up?' Cap asks as the Avengers approach lab four, where Pym is waiting for them. 'Funny you should put it that way, Cap' Pym replies. 'Because I'm happy to say that what's up – as in up-and-around-once-more – is none other – the everybody's favorite synthezoid Avenger – the Vision!' Pym announces, as the Avengers see the Vision, his body repaired, standing in the lab.
The Vision thanks Dr Pym and points out that the re-manufacture and repair of his shattered lower limbs has taken a great deal of time, but it is good to be back. Cap smiles and shakes the Vision's hand, telling him that it is great to have him back. Cap adds that he is constantly amazed by the Vision's ability to come back from wounds that would be fatal to anyone else. Wonder Man grins at the Vision while the Scarlet Witch looks unsure. Firestar and Justice hang back with Dr Pym, and Justice tells Firestar that he was starting to think this day would never come. The Vision explains that much of the credit must go to Anthony Stark and Henry Pym, for without their engineering expertise, he would still be crippled. The Vision adds that with Thor unavailable due to personal business and Iron Man recuperating from his own wounds, this is fortuitous timing. Captain America tells the Vision that it is more than that. 'You're not just an asset to the team, you're our friend. And we're delighted to -' Cap begins, before Wonder Man jostles him to onse side. 'You may get to go first since you're the Avengers' leader, but this is my brother you're talking to!' Wonder Man grins as he throws his arms around the Vision.
Simon tells the Vision that they have a habit of surviving, with him back from the dead and the Vision back from mechanical damage. 'Isn't it great?' Simon asks. 'It is... most welcome, Simon' the Vision responds.
Captain America tells Wanda that he will leave them to celebrate, and that if anyone needs him, he will be in the “play-room”. Cap walks past Firestar, who is frowning, and Justice, who thinks to himself that just being here is amazing – as Captain America, the Vision, the Scarlet Witch and Wonder Man are all legends. 'They're all legends – and next to that, what am I?' he wonders, while Firestar thinks to herself that it is great that the Vision can be rebuilt like that, but wished her problems could be as easily solved.
Suddenly, Dr Pym turns to her, and tells her that if she has a minute, he has a couple of things to go over with her in lab two. 'Sure' Angelica replies, following Dr Pym, she excuses herself from Justice, telling him that she will catch up with him in a little bit. Vance tells her that it is no problem, as he wants to talk to Cap about something, anyway, and races down the corridor, while Pym and Firestar head towards lab two.
Wonder Man leads the Vision out of the lab and tells him that this is great, and that they have to paint the two red, the two of them and Wanda and talk over old times. 'Wanda and I have been looking up all my old haunts recently, finding out which ones are still around and which – uh, maybe I shouldn't have said that. I don't want to cause any trouble, and if it bothers you to hear about -' Simon remarks, but the Vision matter-of-factly tells Wonder Man not to concern himself, as Wanda and his time together ended long ago, so it is not a problem for him. Wanda watches the Vision, while Simon might miss the slight reserve in the Vision's evenly-modulated electronic voice, but he doesn't have the years of experience that Wanda does. The trio enter a living room, where Edwin Jarvis is setting out some tea. Simon tells the Vision thaat the last thing he wants is to hurt him, and offers to call the Beast, let him know he is back, and see if he wants to come along tea. Jarvis tells the Avengers that if they don't need anything else, he has an appointment at Empire State University, to take Lupe to dinner, as his sponsor child still doesn't know many people here. While Wonder Man drinks some tea, Wanda watches the Vision, who tells Jarvis to have a good time and to give Lupe their best wishes.
Meantime, in the combat simulation room, 'Uh... Cap?' Justice asks as he nervously enters the training room. Cap tells Justice to come in, and as he taps away at some controls, admits that he is a little wound up over Hawkeye and what might be happening, so he thought a workout might loosen him up. He asks Justice if he cares to join him. 'Well - yeah, sure!' Justice replies. Cap reports that he has programmed the room for two and asks Justice what is up. Justice informs Cap that he has a problem, and is having a hard time getting past it. He admits that he has always idolized the Avengers, ever since they got started, and it has always been his dream to join the team, and now that he has, well, it isn't what he thought it would be like. Vance admits that he is nervous all the time, like he is scared of screwing up and letting them down. 'You can't get past your outsider's view of us. We're still celebrities to you, and not teammates' Cap realizes. 'Something like that. Except I was thinking legends, not celebrities' Justice remarks.
Cap activates his holo-shield and tells Justice that he knows how he feels, revealing that he wasn't much older than Justice when he first became Captain America, and his shield, not this one, but the one he used for years, was given to him by President Roosevelt when he first met him. 'President Roosevelt. He actually met FDR – more than once! And he thinks that telling me about it – will make me less nervous?' Justice thinks to himself, going wide-eyed. Vance is distracted and doesn't notice the combat simulation room spring to life, as a blast is fired towards him. 'Look alive, Justice! The combat's program started!' Cap exclaims, blocking the blast with his holo-shield. Vance apologizes, and assures Cap that he is awake now.
And in lab two, Firestar stands in a full-length bio-scanner and asks Dr Pym what the scans show. 'Can you really do something about the microwave radiation build up in my body?' she enquires. Pym examines the scans and tellls Angelica to call him “Hank” and that he just needed to confirm a few details of the tests they ran a few days ago – but thinks look very promising indeed. Hank motions to a capsule that contains some bio-circuitry and tells Angelica that it should do the trick. He explains that her problem, basically, is a deficiency in her mutant physique, for while most mutants are immune to their own powers, and Angelica has the potential to be, that part of her cellular make-up never fully developed. Hank hands the bio-circuitry suit to Angelica and tells her that if she wears it under her costume, it will tap into her power, draining away the microwave build-up in her cells, and hopefully kick-start her natural immunity. 'It's a slow process – it should take a few months -' Hank remarks. 'MONTHS?' Angelica shouts, looking down to the floor.
Hank tells her about six months, but he could accelerate the process if she likes, but that if they rush things, then he is afraid there is a small risk of her mutating into a giant insect. 'No – you don't understand. I wasn't disappointed, just startled. I thought I'd have to live with this forever, and now – thank you, Hank! Thank you!' Angelica exclaims, kissing Hank on the cheek, while clutching the bio-circuitry, Angelica then grins and shouts 'Six months!' Tears fall from her eyes as she thinks that in all her time with the New Warriors, ever since they discovered her powers were endangering her health, there didn't seem to be any hope, but now, after just this short time as an Avenger, she is just handed a solution. 'I never thought I'd feel this way – but I'm starting to like it here!' Angelica tells herself.
Back in the living room, Simon looks out a window and suggests to Wanda and the Vision that they could go to a show, that is something he hasn't done since he came back – a Broadway show. He asks the others if they are up for that, and sipping her tea, Wanda tells him that it does sound nice. Simon grins and asks what is still playing – Cats? A Chorus Line? The Vision states that he believes they both are. The Vision offers to remotely interface with Ticketron, but Sumon tells him that it is all right, he will just check and see what else is around, and if anny of his old friends are in anything, and pick something out. 'See you soon!' he calls out as he leaves the living room. Wanda rubs her toe into the floor and points out that Simon is very pleased to be alive again, and tells the Vision that this must be uncomfortable for him. 'Simon may be your “brother” since your mind was originally based on his brain-patterns, but -' Wanda begins, to which the Vision tells her that it is not uncomfortable for him at all.
Wanda asks the Vision if he is sure, and admits that they have been so cold to each other lately – with him telling her that since he “died” and were rebuilt before that they were not married anymore, and Wanda being short with him. 'And now you're awake again, and I'm with Simon -' Wanda remarks, to which the Vision tells his ex-wife that she shouldn't concern herself, and that it is only natural for her to be brusque, after accepting that their old bonds were no more. The Vision tells Wanda that being with Simon suits her, that she is as radiant as she was on the beaches of Rurutu. 'Wh- what?' Wanda utters, wide-eyed. Rurutu was where they honeymooned, where they were so happy. 'But the way he said it...' Wanda thinks to herself. 'Vision, what did you -?' Wanda begins to ask, interrupted by a loud clanging of the priority alarm.
Wanda and the Vision look surprised, while Simon looks up from the phone call he has made. Angelica is changing into her bio-circuitry and looks up from the mirror, while Cap and Justice's training is interrupted also. 'The priority alarm! But why?' Captain America wonders. He goes over to a monitor and sees Hank Pym on the screen. He asks him what is going on and Hank reports that the computers have found Hawkeye. 'You'll want to head out immediately' Hank suggests. Hank offers to stay on monitor duty while Jarvis is out, and puts the geolocator data up on the screen. Cap asks Hank to havev everyone assemble in the Quinjet bay, and that he will head straight there. 'Come on, Justice – quickly' Cap calls out to Justice, who is sitting on a pile of rubble. 'What? What?' Vance asks as he rushes after Cap. Justice adds that it looked like a map of the Arizona Mountains and asks if that is something bad. 'It could be' Cap replies, announcing that Hawkeye, and the Thunderbolts, if he is still with them, is at the site of one of the West Coast Avengers' deadliest battles – the old Dominus base!
Arizona, in the middle of a vast desert, 'So what do you think, gang? Can I pick 'em, or what?' Clint Barton a.k.a. Hawkeye asks as he and the Thunderbolts stand on the edge of a gaping hole and look down into the old base. 'I dunno...' Eric Josten a.k.a. Atlas replies, unimpressed. Karla Sofen a.k.a. Moonstone flies over the hole and tells Hawkeye that it is a hole in the ground with battered, twisted metal, and she doesn't see how this could be their new base. Hawkeye tells Moonstone that is because she doesn't have vision, but lucky for the T-Bolts, he has got it to spare. He explains to them what they are looking at is just the walls of the central core, and if the rest of the base behind it is in good repair, then it ought to be just what they need. Atlas still isn't sure – they are in the middle of nowhere, and it doesn't look like much. 'It used to belong to who? Dominus?' Melissa Gold a.k.a. Songbird asks. Abe Jenkins a.k.a. Mach-1 remains silent while Hallie Takahama a.k.a. Jolt remminds Hawkeye that she has been clipping super hero news since she was a kid, but that she has never heard of Dominus. Hawkeye points out that Jolt is still a kid, but supposes that Dominus never made the news, so offers to fill everyone in.
Shown with various flashback images:
Hawkeye explains that it started with the original X-Men going up against a turnip-head called Lucifer, who said he was sent by aliens called the Arcane and tried to mind-control all of Earth. 'Not that you guys'd know what that's like, eh?' Clint jokes, before revealing that the X-Men beat Lucifer, who was thrown into another dimension, punished by his bosses for foulin' up – only that didn't stop him, as he soon found a way out of his dimensional prison, as his dimensional transmitter created an overlapping zone between Earth and the Nameless Dimension, but unable to break free, he needed human agents. Lucifer was able to fuse his essence with humans – turn them into copies of himself, and once fought Iron Man through one guy, and the Falcon and Captain America (sort of) through another two guys.
Hawkeye reveals that it turned out Lucifer wasn't the real threat, as the Avengers West Coast found out – Dominus was. Dominus was the super computer that ran the base that Lucifer had set out to build. Dominus had taken human form, and had followers – Sunstroke and turkeys called Gila, Cactus and Butte. The Avengers West finished the job the X-Men started, but Dominus ran and the whole core of the base – the Dominus super computer, took off for outer space and didn't look back.
Hawkeye tells the Thunderbolts that after Hercules busted up the cabin they had been using as a base, it struck him that this place would still be empty, and that it was only the core that was gone – there had to be communications hardware, and quarters for at least Sunstroke and Dominus's human host – 'And who knows what else!' Hawkeye exclaims as he fires and arrow into the gaping hole, which explodes as it touches the mechanical wall. 'There's my road in. The rest of you split up and find a way in, or make one – and report back to me and whatever you find via your costume radios. Let's go!' Hawkeye instructs the Thunderbolts.
Hawkeye has offered to lead this team, to help them reform, to win pardons, and he has shown the T-Bolts that they can trust him. But as they enter the long-disused base, they're each consumed by their own thoughts. As she phases through the metal wall, Moonstone realizes that Hawkeye is moving things along pretty quickly, but that she knows there will be a chance, in time, to turn this all to her advantage. Atlas has increased his size as he lowers himself into the tunnel and thinks that this place is pretty desolate, a perfect place for a trap, while Songbird creates a large sonic mace that she uses to bash her way into the compound. She knows that Abe told her to trust Hawkeye, but she isn't sure if she can yet. Mach-1 blasts his way in and decides that a new HQ is a new chance, and it is worth it – worth what he is going to do. Jolt smashes her way through the wall with a surge of energy, and thinks that she shouldn't be worried, as Hawkeye is an Avenger, right?
Jolt uses her power to bounce from wall to wall as she descends through the complex, and radios Hawkeye, informing him that he was right – everything in here looks good as new and in perfect working order. Moonstone flies through another area of the base and announces that there is plenty of space in the living quarters, that you could house a football team in here, and the rooms look like they are just waiting for someone to move in – they aren't even musty. 'You think that's weird, Moonstone? The climate-control hardware is active – and there's a bunch of freezer-banks here, crammed with frozen food' Atlas reports as he locates the kitchen area, adding that it looks like human food, too. Mach-1 flies through a strange area and reports that he thinks it is the main power plant, humming away and pumping out the juice. 'You'd think it'd have been shut down' Mach-1 remarks. Hawkeye tells him not to look a gift horse in the mouth, and assures him that they will check everything out thoroughly later, but in the meantime, they should keep exploring.
Hawkeye climbs down a latter and thinks that this is not bad, not bad at all, but he knows this whole thing is a risk, and he can't even be sure the T-Bolts will follow through – their hearts might be in the right place, but it takes more than good intentions to make a hero. Clint smiles and realizes that he hasn't felt this good since he led the West Coast Avengers, and wonders if maybe he has grown up – from an infielder into a coach. Songbird flies down a corridor, but this place gives her the creeps – she doesn't like being this deep underground, with all this rock and metal hemming her in. She suddenly panics and flies furiously through the complex, desperate to break out into the main pit and get some air – 'HUH?' Melissa gasps as she comes face to face with the Avengers! 'There's one of 'em – it's Songbird!' Firestar calls out as she flies alongside Cap, who is suspended in the air thanks to Justice's telekinesis. Justice flies at the back of the group, while Wonder Man carries the Scarlet Witch, and the Vision floats behind Captain America.
Cap tells Firestar that her sees Songbird, and informs Songbird that if she knows what is good for her, she will surrender – all of them will, and she will take the Avengers to Hawkeye. 'The Avengers!' Songbird exclaims. 'Then it was all a lie! Hawkeye's scammed us – and we walked right into the trap! Well, I've got news for you, chainmail – you don't take Songbird thay easy!' Songbird screams, and the circuitry of her carapace takes the scream, augmenting and modifying it, converting it to solid sound, which slams into the six Avengers and sends them careening backwards out of the pit. Songbird flies up after them, while radioing the Thunderbolts and announcing that they have been ambushed, that she is over the main pit and needs back up. 'Ambushed? But -' Firestar begins, however Captain America instructs the Vision to take Songbird down quickly.
'Of course, Captain' the Vision responds as he materializes behind the surprised Songbird, and explains to her that he altered his density to be intangible, therefore her battering ram passed right through him. He adds that his intangibility can be a weapon as well as a defense, and demonstrates this by plunging his hand through Songbird and solidifying it, causing her to scream. 'Whoa. The Vision is...back' Justice remarks, while Wanda notices that the ground is beginning to move – and an instant later, the massive fist belonging to Atlas bursts up through the ground and separates the Vision from Songbird. 'GET AWAY FROM HER!' Atlas booms. 'Nobody gangs up on a Thunderbolt – not while i'm – huh? The Avengers?' Atlas declares, confused. 'Yes, Atlas – the Avengers! They've attacked us – so let's defend ourselves!' Moonstone exclaims as she flies onto the scene and blasts the Vision with a powerful energy. Moonstone isn't sure what the Avengers are doing here, but she doesn't think Hawkeye called them – but she doesn't want the T-Bolts captured, not after all the time and effort she has put in!
Cap blocks Moonstone's energy blasts with his holo-shield and tells the Avengers to regroup. He points out that there are only three Thunderbolts at the moment, but that the others can't be far behind. 'So hit 'em hard – we want to end this fast!' Cap declares. 'What do you know? My first foe since I came back – and it's my old ionic imitator. Some things never change, I guess' Wonder Man remarks as he flies towards Atlas, who replies 'Oh, yeah? I'll show you what's changed, you lousy -' but as the massive Atlas attempts to punch Wonder Man, the ionic Avenger flies away and then forward, slamming his own fist into Atlas's face. 'Sure, sure. You may have a new face and costume, Josten – but you're stull the same dumb plug-ugly you've always been – ever since you got charged up in the machines that gave me my ionic powers!' Wonder Man exclaims, adding that Josten is still the same second-rate copy, even with his growing powers. 'And if that punch didn't convince you, then this one'll -' Wonder Man begins, but before he can throw the second punch, he is slammed backwards by a sonic-wall, courtesy of Songbird.
'We're outnumbered, Atlas! So do like we were taught – watch your teammates' backs – and we'll watch yours!' Moonstone tells Atlas while blasting Justice with her energies, as Songbird deflects a microwave blast thrown at her by Firestar. 'Keep switching targets! Keep moving!' Songbird calls out. 'Okay!' Atlas replies, slamming his foot down on the ground near Captain America, knocking the Avengers' leader over. 'You're big, Atlas – and you think that makes you threatening! But all it means to me – is that you've got farther to fall!' Captain America calls out as he uses his holo-shield to hurl a large boulder through the air towards Atlas, who who mutters 'Yeah, yeah – tlel me about it' before the boulder is blasted into rubble thanks to Mach-1 who has arrived on scene with Jolt. Mach-1 tells Captain America that was a good move, but not good enough – not when the rest of the T-Bolts are here. Mach-1 alerts Jolt to Wonder Man coming up behind Atlas, and instructs her to delay him. 'Uh – okay!' Jolt replies, while thinking to herself that she doesn't want to fight the Avengers – but they are attacking her team.
Cap uses his holo-shield to deflect the rubble that falls from above, and realizes that the Thunderbolts are organized, and working more smoothly than the Avengers even – almost as if they had Avengers training. Nearby, the Scarlet Witch watches from the sidelines. She sees Jolt knock Wonder Man back, while Mach-1 fires at Captain America and thinks to herself that something is not right here. Wanda watches as the battle grows ugly quickly and tempers begin to flare. 'You cheap crook – you think you can beat the Avengers?' Justice asks Jolt. 'Cheap crook? Who's an Avenger, you jumped-up New Warrior!' Jolt retorts. Harsh words are thrown, while the Vision fires a beam of energy at Moonstone and tells her that her files say she is a skilled psychologist, but he thinks he will have to revise them, as no competent doctor would think the public could be fooled twice by the same lie offered up by the same people. 'Big talk, robot! How's your wife, hmmm?' Moonstone snaps as she fires a blast at the Vision.
And, what started as a simple misunderstanding, turns into something raw and brutal, with wounds opened up that won't soon be healed. 'You fight like a bunch of joborins, Avengers! No wonder the Masters of Evil trashed your mansion!' Songbird declares as she slams a sonic batton into Firestar. Wanda is still watching, and tells herself that she could join the fight, but that in the midst of things, she won't have time to concentrate, only throw simple hexes, but standing back, she can concentrate, direct her power. She has been trying to scan for mind-control like she did with the Squadron Supreme, but doesn't sense any. Wanda decides that what is stranger is that she doesn't sense any evil intent from the Thunderbolts. She carefully walks along the edge of the large hole that leads into the base, and reminds herself that the Thunderbolts did help stop Zemo, and started out acting like they were defending themselves. Wanda senses an underground river that runs directly beneath the complex. She thinks that if she can divert it, she can give everyone a quick soaking and end the battle. But as the Scarlet Witch concentrates, an arrow is fired at her – landing an inch from her head!
'Hawkeye!' Wanda exclaims as she sees her longtime friend and teammate. 'Big as life and twice as handsome, doll' Clint calls out, telling Wanda that there is no need to unleash whatever whammy she had up her sleeve. 'Then – you're all right? You weren't kidnapped?' Wanda enquires. Clint assures Wanda that he is fine, and that he wanted to see how the kids handled themselves against a real threat for a minute or two. 'So, c'mon, gorgeous – let's go break this sock hop up!' Clint tells Wanda. But as he springs forward, he fails to notice the lights that suddenly blink to life behind him and the machines that begin to hum.
And, shortly: 'You – WHAT?' Captain America shouts as he and the Avengers and Thunderbolts stand grouped together. 'Cheap crook' Jolt thinks to herself. 'Destroyed the Mansion' Firestar recalls. 'Incompetent, am I?' Moonstone tells herself, while Wanda stands near Hawkeye, wrapping herself in her cloak as Hawkeye tells Cap that he is not just a member of this merry bunch of miscreants – he is also their leader, that he is giving them a chance to reform, to redeem themselves. 'And you've got my guarantee – they won't step out of line' Clint assures Cap. Wanda realizes that the tension is incredible, and it was a mistake to let the fight start and even worse to let it run on, as everyone is so worked up and in no mood to talk. Wanda reminds herself that is not the kind of thing Hawkeye has ever been sensitive too. 'A mistake? Let me tell you something, Flag-Face -' Hawkeye declares, but Cap tells Hawkeye to listen to him for a moment. 'They're criminals – dangerous felons! You can't just -' Cap begins. 'Oh, can't I? Seems to me I remember you taking a chance on me, Quicksilver and Wanda here a few years' back! We'd been crooks – and we turned out okay!' Hawkeye reminds Cap, before asking Cap if he doesn't trust him.
'Don't make this about you, Hawkeye – it's about them! You'd been misguided back then – made a few bad choices – these are hardened criminals – murderers!' Cap exclaims. 'BUSHWACK!' Hawkeye shouts, announcing that the only known murderer on the team is Mach-1 – the Beetle, and reveals that he has already gotten Mach-1 to agree to turn himself in. 'You – you have? He agreed to that?' Cap asks, rubbing the back of his head. 'Yes – I did! Muscle-brained me! We're already making arrangements for his public surrender' Hawkeye adds. Cap tells Hawkeye that he is sorry, he didn't realize. 'Five gets you ten Hawkeye keeps shouting, even though he's made his point...' Wonder Man whispers to Moonstone. 'No bet, Avenger. We've been living with him...' Moonstone replies, when Songbird suddenly asks 'What – what's that sound?'
Indeed, there is a loud rumbling, and the Vision reports that it is becoming from below, from the base. 'Those lights!' Justice calls out, and, standing on the edge of the pit, Wanda sees the lights in the pit. 'What in -?' Wanda calls out, while Cap realizes that the ground is breaking up and instructs everyone to evacuate, and for those who can fly to help those who can't. 'Songbird?' Mach-1 calls out, concerned for his partner, while Wanda screams as she loses her balance near the edge of the pit. 'Wanda!' Wonder Man and the Vision both call out at once. The Vision tells Wanda to go limp, but Moonstone swoops in and picks Wanda up as the green lights continue to rise from the pit. Wanda thanks Moonstone, 'But what the heck is that?' Wanda asks as a large being resembling the metal from the pit rises, arms outstretched and green energy radiating around it and bellows 'I – AM – DOMINEX!'
'Dominex?' Mach-1 asks as the Avengers and Thunderbolts gather together. Songbird creates a sonic platform which Atlas and Hawkeye stand on, and Moonstone places the Scarlet Witch, while Justice levitates Captain America, and the others hover under their own abilities. 'Dominex. That's what it said, Mach-1' the wide-eyed Atlas remarks, while Firestar tells everyone that she thought it was Dominus. 'It was, Firestar, it was...' Cap tells her. The strange being announces that it should have awakened when the core computer fled, but that its launch damaged it, left it dormant. 'Now, your battle has awakened me – and now I can carry out my programming!' Dominex declares. Dominex announces that this world is the first to resist the power of Dominus and the Arcane, and as such, it must pay the price for its defiance – it must be destroyed. 'Activating somni-rays' Dominex states as energy continues to increase around it. 'Destroyed? Not a chance! Thunderbolts -' Hawkeye begins, while Cap exclaims '- move, Avengers! Before it -' but their calls come too late, as a massive blast of energy slams into the Avengers and Thunderbolts, sending them crashing through the air.
In moments, all is dark and silent. The darkness remains, warm and comforting, until a fiery bird breaks through the darkness, and a voice calls out '...aptain...?' 'Capt... Ameri...?' and suddenly, Captain America opens his eyes. 'Wh-what?' he utters, 'Captain! Captain – WAKE UP!' calls out Bonita Juarez a.k.a. Firebird. Captain America is surprised to see Bonita descend next to him, and help him up amongst the rubble. Bonita reminds Captain America that she is relatively inactive as Firebird these days, but that she was with the West Coast team when they fought dominus, so when she heard about this incident, she came to investigate, and has just found them. “Heard?” Cap asks, puzzled. Wanda, Justice and then the others come to, clutching their heads, as Wonder Man remarks that the “somni-rays” or whatever they were hit like lightning, and he is still woozy. 'How did you know to come here, Firebird? Where's -' Cap begins to ask, but the Vision interrupts him, alterting him to the pit. Cap and the others rush over to the gaping hole in the earth, and the Vision declares that it is completely empty, that every metal plate and every circuit is gone.
'Looks like we missed a reel or two. What's going on, Bonita?' Wonder Man asks his fellow former West Coast Avenger, while Wanda asks where the Thunderbolts are – and Dominex? Bonita reports that it has been all over the news – television and radio, and that the robot is marching west, heading for the Pacific Ocean, and the Air Force has been unable to check its march. 'As for the Thunderbolts – that's why I came here rather than go after – Dominex, if that's it name. They are already in pursuit' Bonita reveals. Cap instructs the Avengers to pull themselves together, and uses remote access to call the Quinjet to them. He tells his team that her wants them aboard in seconds, as they are going after that thing.
Meanwhile, Dominex continues marching across the United States while fighter jets swoop towards it, and open fire. A pilot reports that they have unloaded their full complement of missiles, and it is shrugging them off like they are spitballs. 'We're all that's available to stop this thing. We've got to keep at it, until – well, well, now there's a sight for sore eyes. HAWKEYE!' another pilot responds, as Hawkeye rides up alongside the fighter jet on his sky-cycle. 'In the flesh, Airman – or General, or whatever. Thanks for delaying it – but maybe we should give it a shot...' Hawkeye calls out to the pilot. 'Roger that, hero. Response team – pull back! The Avengers are taking over!' the pilot instructs the others. 'Avengers, huh? Guess he hasn't heard the news. But I'm not going to be the one to clue him in' Hawkeye decides, before radioing the Thunderbolts: 'Let's do it!' he tells them.
Inside the Avengers Quinjet, Cap asks Justice to pilot for a while. 'Me? But -' Justice begins. Cap reminds him that her checked out on Quinjets weeks ago, and his scores were excellent, so he will do fine. Cap adds that he wants to get in touch with Hank Pym and Tony Stark – if they are going up against a robot, their advice may come in handy.
'You waste your time, humans!' Dominex announces as the Thunderbolts attack it. 'Dominex cannot be breached!' the robot boasts. 'He's right! Some sort of energy-field – protecting his outer skin!' Jolt informs her teammates as she clings to the side of Dominex. Mach-1 fires some shots at Dominex and remarks 'That explains why we could rip through the walls before – but can't dent him now!' and adds that is not going to stop them trying. 'Can't – hold him back!' Atlas exclaims as he latches onto the behemoth. Songbird latches onto Hawkeye with a sonic rope, and Jolt darts over to Hawkeye, 'Maybe we should have woken the Avengers, too...' she suggests. 'Maybe, Jolt. But I'll take responsibility for that when the somni-rays didn't affect her enhanced metabolism, he figured it was a chance to beat this thing solo, and prove themselves. 'I'm starting to feel like I made the wrong call' Hawkeye admits, while Jolt suggests that maybe they should retreat and get more help?
'No, not yet' Hawkeye replies, admitting that he may be a bonehead half the time, but that he is no quitter, and declares that there must be a way to beat Dominex, even if they can't break through it's body. Suddenly, Hawkeye calls out to Moonstone, and points out that Dominex is made up of the old base – including hatchways, so perhaps he is not as protected from the inside. Hawkeye instructs Moonstone to phase in there and see if she can let the rest of them in. 'You're joking. That thing's powerful enough to wipe out the Avengers – and you want me to go inside?' Moonstone asks, unimpressed. 'That's how the game's played, Moonstone! Get up to the plate – or get out of the park!' Hawkeye declares. Moonstone hesitates, swallowing hard, then flies forward, and phases into the behemoth. 'She's in!' Jolt exclaims – and moments later, a panel on Dominex bursts open. 'She did it!' Mach-1 declares as he flies down to the open panel. 'Eh? I register a disruption in -' Dominex begins, while Hawkeye tells his teammates to get inside, and they race into the open panel, before Dominex closes the gap an instant later with whatever energy field was protecting him from the outside. 'We're trapped' Jolt points out.
The Thunderbolts look around at their strange prison, as Dominex's voice can be heard, telling the would-be-heroes that they shall remain trapped – helpless against the technology of the Arcane, they can accomplish nothing. 'Oh, yeah? Well, if we're so insignificant – tell us what you're up to! You haven't even tried those snooze-rays on us again!' Hawkeye calls out. Dominex reports that the somin-rays were of limited effectiveness on their first deployment, and he is not programmed for fruitless behavior, and in addition, all available energy must be hsbanded – for the build-up to the explosion. 'Explosion? What explosion?' Hawkeye asks. Dominex trudges into the Pacific Ocean and reminds the Thunderbolts that he said this planet must be destroyed – and it will be. Dominex reveals that it is traveling toward the Murray Fracture Zone, west of this continent, at the edge of one of the tectonic plates, there, where the crust of this Earth is thinnest, and it shall explode.
Dominex continues, explaining that the force shall be enough to rupture the planet like a balloon, causing tidal waves of lava beneath its crust, cracking the tectonic plates and causing sesmic convulsions worldwide. Dominex adds that massive amounts of water, stone and earth, converted to radioactive vapor, will be hurled into the atmosphere, and the ocean-borne tidal waves will be destructive, but of minor effect in the final analysis. Dominex states that fallout will be showered worldwide and the atmospheric shroud will cause a nuclear winter – an ice-age that will destroy the rest of the biosphere. 'Earth will be clensed. Such is the pirce of defying the Arcane' Dominex reports. 'This doesn't sound good..' Jolt utters. Hawkeye tells the T-Bolts to get to work by destroying this thing from the inside, when suddenly, Moonstone notices a humming and tells the Thunderbolts that Dominex has already started the build up to the explosion!
The Quinjet, meanwhile, streaks onwards, and Captain America announces that they have real-time links hooked up to both New York and Seattle. 'Hank, Tony – are you there?' Cap asks. 'On-line and ready, Cap' Pym replies from New York, while, in Seattle, Tony reports that he is ready, too, before pointing out that he has noticed on old friend of Hank's has joined the crew. Bonita leans towards the monitor and tells Hank that it is good to see him again, and that he looks well. 'Bonita! What a nice surprise!' Hank exclaims when he sees Firebird. He then tells her that she is still invited to the house any time she makes it out east, but supposes they don't have much time to catch up right now. 'You said it ews a robot, Cap' Tony remarks, before pointing out that from the pictures on the news, and from where it came from, he is betting it is not a completely new threat. 'You'd win – it's called Dominex, and it's a parting gift from just who you think. Iron Man and Dr Pym were there, the last time – so you may have more to contribute than just technical know-how Cap replies, as he begins to explain to Pym and Stark what has happened.
At the same time, Wanda gets up from her seat in the Quinjet and approaches the Vision, who is looking out a window. 'Wanda...?' Wonder Man asks, but gets no response. Wanda tells the Vision that she wants to know what he meant when he mentioned Rurutu. 'Really, Wanda. You should not attach too much import to -' the Vision begins, but Wanda interrupts him: 'Don't, Vision. I know you too well. You have all your memories back – and the emotions that went with them. Don't you?' Wanda asks. She tells him that she thought it was only a change from Onslaught, but realizes now that he had his memories all along, even when he said he wasn't the same many anymore. 'Didn't you?' Wanda asks. The Vision admits that he did, and tells Wanda that he has cost her so much pain over the years – with their ill-starred romance, their tragi efforts to have children, his disassembly and robotic state thereafter – it was too much, he could not bear to hurt her any further – so he sent her away, for her own health. 'I didn't know – I never realized' Wanda replies, before telling the Vision that he shouldn't have done it, shouldn't have closed himself off. The Vision reminds Wanda that she is with Simon now, and that he is a good man – more her kind. 'You should go to him – and forget me' the Vision tells Wanda, hanging his head.
Even as the Scarlet Witch opens her mouth to speak, Cap, Justice and Firestar look concerned as the Quinjet is struck by something. 'What the -?' Justice calls out, while Cap points out that it is some sort of vibratory field, and they have hit the periphery of it. The Quinjet looms before Dominex, who is waist-deep in the ocean 'And three guesses what's at the center! Avengers – ATTACK!' Captain America commands the team, and an instant later, Wonder Man, Firestar, Justice, Firebird and the Vision fly out of the Quinjet and into battle.
But, 'My flames – they don't affect it!' Firebird calls out as she unleashes her power against Dominex. 'Mine either -' Firestar exclaims, adding that she is cutting loose for the first time in a long time – but it is just not enough. Justice ducks to avoid being grabbed by Dominex and tells Firestar that it is not a matter of power, his telekinetic blasts are just splashing off, but he can't even get a grip on it, as if something is interfering. The Vision agrees and reports that Dominex is sheathed in a variable frequency energy-field – one he cannot pass through, even in his intangible form. He points out that Dominex's vibratory field continues to build. At the same time, Wonder Man, in his ionic form, is under the water, near Dominex's feet, and discovers that the protective field still defies assault as he is slammed backwards.
And, inside: 'Whoa' Atlas exclaims as he and the other Thunderbolts are knocked about. Jolt tells everyone that it was not Dominex, but something is hitting them from outside, and hitting hard. 'Doesn't matter, kid! They're not gonna get in – so it's still up to us!' Hawkeye calls out, while encouraging his team to smash whatever they can see. As she releases a sonic scream, Songbird tells Hawkeye that they are trying, but not making much headway, because every time they smash something, it just rebuilds itself. Atlas suggests that they find the self-repair circuits and shut them down, and peering out an open panel, he discovers something, and calls Hawkeye over. 'Huh?' Hawkeye exclaims, surrpised as he sees the Quinjet outside, and supposes he better let the Avengers know the Thunderbolts are inside. 'Where's my Commiunicard, anyway?' he wonders.
And shortly, 'So that's the story, Cap! It's gonna blow up and take the world with it! 'Hawkeye announces, while Cap and Wanda listen, shocked. Hawkeye declares that if anyone has any bright ideas, the Thunderbolts are in position to try 'em, for whatever good it does – but they should speak up fast, because he is fresh out of ideas. Firebird tells Hawkeye that the Avengers have supplied her with a uniform-radio and informs him that there must be safeguards, as Dominus must have had a way to shut it down, in the event of a malfunction. 'Nice to know you're at the party, Firebird – but I don't know that helps much! Dominus isn't here, so -' Hawkeye replies, before suddenly, he thinks of something, and tells Moonstone to get front and center, quickly.
Cap thinks to himself that whatever Hawkeye has in mind, he hopes it works. Cap looks at the sensors, which indicate that the vibratory field is thirty miles wide, and the robot is almost to the Murray Zone – so it can't be much longer. 'Okay, suit's looking good – helmet's kinda like Nova's, or like your first one – but it's got a crest on it that slopes up to a point like Dominex's does -' Hawkeye tells Moonstone, who tells him that this is stupid – she can change the shape of her armor, customize the color all he wants, but she is still felame, and that doesn't change. 'Dominus was -' Moonstone begins as she uses her power to alter her costume and helmet. 'Dominus was a computer! He possessed a host – so sex doesn't matter! Just do it!' Hawkeye tells Moonstone, who suddenly shouts 'Hear me, Dominex! I, Dominus, have returned from space – have possessed the body of the human Moonstone! The Arcane plan a new assault on this world – and thus I order you to cease all activity – now!' Moonstone declares.
Dominex comes to a halt. 'Contradictory commands – this must be resolved. Scanning databanks for authorization parameters...' the robot announces. 'Hey – it's slowing down!' Wonder Man calls out as he emerges from the water and flies towards the Vision and Justice. 'Okay, Avengers – we bought some time, but it won't last! We need help to figure out how to take it down' Hawkeye communicates to the Avengers. 'Too bad for the world you didn't think of that in Arizona, Hawkeye!' Justice declares. Cap tells Justice to focus on the present, as there is time enough for recriminations after the crisis is past. Cap informs Hawkeye that Hank Pym and Tony stark are on line, and suggests to him that if he can get some data out, they might be able to come up with something. As Mach-1 touches the circuitry on the wall of Dominex, Hawkeye reports that Mach-1's cybersuuit can scan the interior pipe over the images digitally. Mach-1 replirs that he can only try, as his armor has been malfunctioning and he isn't sure if he can punch the signal through the vibro-field.
Hawkeye tells Mach-1 to do it anyway, as they don't have much else. Cap reports that he is getting something, but that it is distorted, as if the information is corrupted. Captain America can't help but wonder – how much of what he is being told is the truth, as this is Mach-1 – the Beetle. 'Perhaps I can be of assistance' the Vision suggests as he floats onto the top of the Quinjet. He reveals that he has made improvements to his internal systems during his repairs, incorporated some of the Mansion's communications circuitry, and can remote-link to the Quinjet's onboard systems and scan for Mach-1's signal himself – then strengthen it and enhance it. The Vision concentrates as he does this, while Mach-1 tells him to work fast, as he has just lost some secondary systems, and he doesn't know how much longer he can broadcast. 'Just continue scanning, Mach-1! I will – I will maintain contact -' the Vision responds as he struggles to continue his task.
'Hank? Tony? Are you -?' Cap calls out to the screens, which flicker, distorted. '...something...but blurry...' Hank replies, while Tony tells him that he is starting to lose his signal. Wanda looks upwards and tells the Vision that the vibro-field has been rattling the Quinjet's circuitry all along, and that it is now starting to affect him, too. 'You can't stay here, Vizh! It'll rip you apart!' Wonder Man exclaims as he flies towards the Vision – but the android Avenger tells Wonder Man to stay back, as the vibratory field is troubling, but that it is a distraction, he can compensate, 'And I WILL...maintain the link!' the Vision exclaims.
Looking at the data that appears on his monitor, Hank Pym reports that the data is coming through crystal clear, and remarks that the systems look like the same kind of arrangement the Dominus base was laid out in, which makes sense. Tony looks at the data and agrees, reporting that he can see the motor-systems and diagnostic systems, and instructs Hawkeye to tell Mach-1 to head upward and to his left, and follow that large conduit. Eventually: 'That's it! Logic systems are a speciality of mine – and even with alien technology, that's got to be the command module!' Hank exclaims. Tony remarks that even the backup systems seem to funnel through it. 'Destroy it – and Dominex will theoretically shut down – self-repair systems included!' Tony exclaims. 'But -' Hank begins. '“But” what, Hank?' Cap asks. Hank explains that if the T-Bolts don't destroy the command module, then they could use it to take control of Dominex themselves. Hank adds that he trusts Hawkeye, but points out that even heroes screw up, and they only have their word that this thing is going to blow up. 'Do we really want to hand control of a world-destroyer to the Masters of Evil?' Hank asks.
'It's reached the Murray Fracture! Ig we're going to act -' Cap begins, while Stark reminds the others that the Thunderbolts have saved the world once – against Zemo. 'Hope springs eternal, Hank! If we give up on redemption – aren't we already lost?' Firebird asks as she and Firestar hover near Dominex. Captain America looks wordlessly at the viewscreen, before Hank Pym nods, transmits the data, and, inside Dominex, Hawkeye calls out to his team, that it is the spherical unit above. 'Thunderbolts – hit it!' he orders them, and at once, the Thunderbolts unleash their abilities against the command module – and an instant later, Dominex screams – screams, and begins to slowly topple.
Later, the behemoth has collapsed into the ocean, and acts as a small island where the heroes all gather after the Quinjet landed. Cap thanks Hawkeye and all of the Thunderbolts and tells them that they did good work here. 'Toldja' Hawkeye exclaims. Cap admits that he still has reservations – serious reservations – about Hawkeye's plan to lead this team, and he doesn't think that it is the right road to redemption, if that is truly what they are seeking. Captain America points out that the Avengers are not policemen and are not compelled to act on police warrants, so they won't stand in Hawkeye's way – he earned that much today, at least. 'I could hear you sweating at the end there...but make no mistake. If we hear about the Thunderbolts breaking the law again, we'll have no choice. We'll have to take you down. You included, Hawkeye' Cap announces. 'Well, you'll have to try, anyway. But we did pretty well against you after only a little training. Imagine what we'll be after a few months!' Hawkeye exclaims. 'Hawkeye!' Wanda exclaims.
Hawkeye turns to his friend and tells her that he can't back down from a challenge, she knows that, before assuring the Avengers that the Thunderbolts won't be committing any crimes. Clint adds that he knows he is sticking his neck out here, and he nows how far – and he isn't asking the Avengers to take the heat along with him. 'So here -' Clint begins as he holds up his Communicard. 'Hawkeye, what -?' Cap begins, but Clint announces that this will make things easier for them. 'Hawkeye!' Cap declares as Clint snaps his Communicard. 'I didn't mean – I don't want to chase you away from the team -' Cap explains. Hawkeye tells Cap not to sweat it. 'This is my kinda game, not yours. And I have to admit – I'm looking forward to it' Hawkeye remarks, while Mach-1 and Songbird look at each other, Mach-1 is surprised that the Avengers are letting them go.
And so: 'Happy trails, buckaroos! I tell you what – next time the Zodiac pops up, we'll see who can take 'em apart first! Loser buys the beer!' Hawkeye callls out as he is back on his skycycle and takes off. Mach-1 and Moonstone fly nearby, as does Songbird, who has created a sonic-platform to carry Atlas and Jolt. The Avengers all look up as the Thunderbolts vanish from sight. 'I don't believe it. Hawkeye quit the Avengers – to join them?' Justice gasps. Angelica reminds Vance that she knows what it is like to be working for the wrong side, and hopes that Hawkeye will be able to make it work. Wonder Man holds the Scarlet Witch close, while Firebird remarks that the Lord works in mysterious ways. 'Who is to say he's not working through Hawkeye now?' she points out. Cap tells Bonita that he will keep his fingers crossed – he thinks they all will.