Evening falls on Manhattan, which finds itself a host to a giant stone fortress that has stopped its slow crawl over the city and is now fixed over the East River. A voice rings out from within the fortress that screams out that they are the chosen. They are those that have been transformed by the Great Ones through the icons of sovereignty. Conquest was transformed by Krakkan and his Kestral Key, Stonecutter by Ikonn and the Ivory Doll, Tempest by Valtorr and the Verdant Vial, Bedlam by Watoomb and the Wondrous Waterfall, Carnivore by Farallah and the Fearsome Fist, Decay by Raggadorr and the Ringed Ruby, and Inferno by Balthaak and the Blinding Blazier.
Juggernaut finds himself suspended over a large pit by one of Stonecutter’s tractor beams. Conquest explains to Juggernaut that he is one of them, empowered by the Crimson Crystal of Cyttorak. He was to aid them in their wager, of the Octessence, to bring about the Eighth Day. They were to each command one-eighth of Earth’s population in a war until only one of them stood, proving the eternal might of their patron. However, Juggernaut betrayed them and shattered the spell that would have made Earth theirs. He shall be executed and the war will continue without him. Cyttorak has forfeited his claim and the world will run red with the blood in the name of the other seven. Juggernaut begins to resist the field that contains him and tells Stonecutter that he cannot hold him forever. Nothing gets in the way of the Juggernaut.
Stonecutter tells that others that Cain speak the truth as the spells that were placed upon him prevent his holding. He will break free before Stonecutter can perfect the machine that he can use to break Cyttorak’s spells so they can kill him. Conquest tells Stonecutter that she would not mind, as she wishes to test her skills against him. However, they have agreed to the sentence and it must be carried out. Conquest then asks Bedlam to make Juggernaut be quiet like she has been doing since they captured him. Bedlam complies by sending a blast of energy through Cain’s mind. Tempest looks upon Juggernaut’s unconscious body and scoffs. He is nothing in there hands.
In Manhattan, the media has full coverage over the appearance of the Exemplars and, of course, how the Avengers were defeated and have returned back to the mansion. The reporter at the main station, Hubert, turns over to his on-site reporter, Shondaya Williams, who reports that tension is still high at the mansion with the protestors. The Avengers have made no response to the protestors’ wishes. Suddenly, Shondaya notices something on the roof and reports that it appears that the Avengers are building something, but she is too far away to tell.
On the roof, Iron Man and Giant-Man are indeed busy constructing a hovercraft, which has what appears to be a large cannon on its front. Iron Man tells Giant-Man that they need full power to the flux-cannon if they want to break the Exemplar’s barriers. He adds that he is thankful for the help, as for a reserve member the Avengers have been calling on him a lot lately. Giant-Man tells him that it isn’t a problem for he is happy to help. He has been a reluctant member in the past but, after beating Ultron for good, he has gained a new taste for superheroing. Iron Man thinks about the good things in recent times; including Giant-Man’s relaxed composure after Ultron’s death and the fact that Warbird has been in A.A. for weeks. If only the Triune weren’t placing the protestors outside their mansion.
Nearby, Thor looks up into the sky, as a familiar voice calls down below to break out the ale and slay a calf. A helicopter comes to the room, with Hercules hanging off the side, claiming that he has brought salvation for the Avengers in his usual boastful way. Hercules kisses the female pilot on the cheek and forgives having to leave so soon. The woman blushes and waves as Hercules lands on the roof and bids her farewell. She doesn’t know if Hercules really is a mythical god, but he sure makes her believe it.
Thor and Hercules greet one another. Thor thanks Hercules for responding to his call. He has faced the Exemplars before and though they were once human they command forces that rival those of a god. Even Tempest can command the winds stronger than he can. The Avengers will need the powers of the gods for this fight. Hercules reminds Thor that an Olympian demigod was always stronger than two Asgardian wimps combined, even with his power diminished. Suddenly, Hercules sees the protestors outside and asks what is happened. Thor explains the situation with the protestors, who want more people of color on the team and no mutants. No matter what the cause they fight for, all the protestors feel that the Avengers must comply or be unworthy of their respect. Hercules scoffs at this and tells Thor that humans are jackals that bite the hand that tries to keep them safe. They don’t deserve his protection. Though it is uncommon for Hercules to say such a thing, just as it is for Thor to agree, both fall silent for there is no argument against it.
Down in the Comm-Room, Duane Freeman approaches Captain America with a compact disc that has all the information that the United States government has on the Exemplars. Captain America graciously accepts the disk from Duane, but cannot help but notice that his liaison is now wearing his Triune Understanding pin on his jacket for all to see. Duane notices Captain America eying the pin and assures him that he is the same man he has always been. He insists that the Triune are good people and asks if Cap holds it against him. Cap inserts the disk into the computer and quickly tells Duane that he does not and then changes the subject back to the Exemplars.
In the Trophy Hall, Quicksilver looks at a puppet of himself and the Scarlet Witch. The Scarlet Witch enters the room almost as if on cue and the room becomes silent. Quicksilver breaks the silence and tells Wanda that she hasn’t said much to him since he arrived. Wanda tells him that she doesn’t know what to say. He is her brother, but he also returned back to Magneto. Astounded, Quicksilver tells her sister that she makes it sound as if he returned to the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. He serves as a Cabinet Minister of Genosha, not an underling. Genosha is in great need of help after all that has happened to it recently. Should Magneto be left to rule unquestioned or should someone be there to guide him to the proper path to help the people? Bitterly, Wanda tells him that he should never have been given a country. He should be hunted down like a dog and imprisoned for life. Shocked again, Quicksilver reminds her that though they have had differences with him, Magneto is still their father. In an emotional rage, Wanda screams that Magneto is not her father.
She begins to cry and explains that their father was Django Maximoff, who took them in and taught them how to read and write. Magneto may be their biological father, but all he did was use them as weapons for his hateful Brotherhood. Now he has a country and everyone thinks he will change. However, she knows that he is a monster. Wanda storms out of the room and tells Quicksilver that Magneto is just hiding his face and now she is scared that she has lost her brother to him. As she nears a staircase, Quicksilver runs ahead of her and explains that she hasn’t lost him and she never will. She may not need his protection anymore, but he will always be there for her and he loves her. Wanda cries more and hugs her brother.
Captain America looks at the information and comments that they have quite a bit. Duane agrees and explains that the Exemplars made their first appearances rather publicly, so it wasn’t hard to find out who they really were. Cap reads the files on the Exemplars. First is Tempest, who is a 32-year old French woman, named Nicolette Giroux. Next is a 44-year old Japanese man named Yoshiro Hachiman, who is now Decay. Bedlam was just an eight-year old girl from Kenya named Olisa Kabaki. Conquest was a 26-year old Irish woman named Bridget Malone. Inferno was a 29-year old woman from the United States name Samantha McGee. Stonecutter was also very young, a 17-year old Thai boy named Utama Somchart. Finally there is Carnivore, who is actually the 46-year old Grecian Count Andreas Zorba. Cap notices that all of the Exemplars were frustrated people who were driven by the lack of something in their lives. Suddenly, the console beeps. Cap puts Jarvis on screen, who explains that there is trouble outside.
Captain America asks Jarvis to put it on screen. Jarvis does so and Duane is shocked at the sight. Jarvis explains that some protestors climbed the mansion gates to spray slogans on the front door. Jarvis had turned off the wall defenses to prevent them from getting injured, but the automatic defenses kicked in and now six protestors find themselves wrapped up in coils, all screaming that there are going to be lawsuits. Jarvis adds that there have been so many calls at the Maria Stark Foundation from citizens who…well, they want the Avengers to “stop hiding in the mansion and do something about the Exemplars.” Reporters also call asking for a response.
Jokingly, Cap tells Jarvis to tell the reporters that they are busy out recruiting more mutants and white heroes to save them. Jarvis is confused, but Cap tells him not to say that. He orders the man to deactivate the entranceway defenses, but to keep the door locked and to alert the janitorial crew. Jarvis asks about the reporters, but Cap tells him not to say anything to them. They are too busy doing the job they are being criticized about. Cap then ends the communication. Duane questions Cap’s response to the media, but Cap insists that they go back to the research.
On the stairs, the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver sit. Wanda asks her brother how things are going on in Genosha. Bluntly, Quicksilver tells her that things aren’t good. Hammer Bay, which was once a lovely city, is now scarred by so much violence. Worse, the citizenry is made up of former slaves who only knew how to be harsh and former masters who are lying low for fear of retribution. It is difficult to imagine Genosha being happy again. However, there are people there working to fix things again. Quicksilver tells his sister that he does not want to dwell on this anymore and decides that they should see how the others are doing. Wanda holds her brother’s hand and tells him that she knows that he is doing his best and that he is not furthering Magneto’s insane goals. If he ever needs the Avengers, it will take only one word and they will be there. Quicksilver tells his sister that he never doubted it.
Back in the Comm-Room, Duane looks over Cap’s file on the earlier events in the day and reveals that he discussed the situation with the National Security Council. It seems to them that the Exemplars just want to kill Juggernaut. He is a deadly menace, so why stop them? The U.S. faces a great risk if they enter battle. Annoyed, Cap tells Duane that if the Exemplars are allowed to come on American soil and do execute a man who deserves due process and the government allows this, then what happens when they come back? Duane knows the Exemplars will return. It doesn’t matter if they like the Juggernaut. They must stand up against the tyranny, force, and murder that the Exemplars represent. The government can yank Avengers clearance if they want, but they aren’t going to ignore this threat, no matter who the target is. Cap turns and asks if he is clear. Ashamed, Duane tells him that it was just a thought and that he didn’t mean to offend him. Cap apologizes and admits that he overreacted. Duane assures him that he was justified, but to himself Cap knows that he did and he knows why. The fact that he is a Triune member bothers him and right now Cap hates the fact that he cannot trust him.
Wonder Man and Wasp eat and drink tea on the ground floor. Wasp asks Wonder Man what is bothering him and the man tells her that he turned down Avengers membership because he didn’t think he deserved it, but he still goes on all the missions. This is making him uncomfortable, as he thought he would have time to think, but with Pagan and then Ultron and now this, he doesn’t know. Wasp realizes that Wonder Man feels as if he would be leaving the team in the middle of a crisis.
Wasp reminds Simon that the Avengers face crises all the time. They will survive without him. She thinks it would be good if he took the time to think through. Justice and Firestar enter and Wasp greets them. Justice asks if it is just recently or are the Avengers always rushing from one emergency case to another. Wasp tells him it is always like this and asks why. Firestar explains that she and Justice have been talking, but suddenly the alarms go off. Over intercom, Cap calls all the Avengers to the roof.
The Avengers board the hovercraft that Giant-Man and Iron Man assembled and fly off to the Exemplar’s fortress. The team cannot but help but notice how the once angry protestors now look up to the team as if they are their angry hope. While many in the crowd yell at them, it is obvious they seek the Avengers for dependence and need. None of the heroes say anything, though. Hercules spots the fortress and admits he is eager to begin the battle.
However, before they reach the plaza, a sticky goo hits the side of the hover craft. Hercules looks down and sees Spider-Man hanging off the side on a web sling. Spider-Man waves and asks if he can join, as the Exemplars destroyed some of his favorite rooftops. Captain America welcomes him aboard and tells him that they will accept any help that they can get. Upon hearing this, Nova of the New Warriors flies above and hopes that he can join too. He explains that the other New Warriors and Daredevil are dealing with looters down below in the city, but he wants to fight with the big leagues.
The team nears the fortress and Iron Man explains to the team that their defenses compensate for any attack, so they are going to keep on changing frequency on their cannon until they can break through the barrier. Iron Man and Giant-Man prepare and then fire the cannon. Giant-Man is surprised to see that the fortress is repelling their attack. Iron Man refuses to give up and ups the ante. Iron Man then shifts the omicron level 37%. Justice is impressed by the men. Firestar whispers to him that she thought Tony Stark was the genius and that Iron Man was just the pilot in the suit. Justice tells her that that was all he saw fit to tell them for now. Firestar acquiesces, but then suddenly realizes what Justice meant. In front of them, the Wasp smirks over how Firestar finally put two and two together.
Iron Man finally breaks through the barrier. On cue, Thor throws Mjolnir, which breaks right through the wall of the fortress. The heroes rush into the fortress, much to the surprise of Juggernaut, and take on the awaiting Exemplars. Despite Spider-Man’s warning, Nova is dismissive and points out that anyone who wears tassels on her head isn’t that tough. Firestar calls out Nova’s name in fear, as he is thrown into a wall. Nova didn’t even see Conquest move.
While Firestar is distracted, she, Scarlet Witch and Justice are mind-blasted by Beldam. Quicksilver, Spider-Man and Giant-Man go after Decay, who turns Spider-Man’s webs into dust. Decay then crumbles the ground beneath the men. While Spider-Man jumps to safety, Giant-Man and Quicksilver fall through. The Wasp stings Decay and tells Spider-Man to save the others, because they are hundreds of yards above Manhattan. Spider-Man shoots his webbing and catches Giant-Man, who catches the relieved Quicksilver.
Elsewhere, Hercules and Iron Man find themselves caught in Tempest’s whirlwind. Hercules tells Iron Man to use his jet boots to get free, but Iron Man is unable to due to the high winds. Inferno attacks Thor. Carnivore leaps into battle, but Inferno tells him to leave. Carnivore refuses to as he thinks he has a better shot against Thor. Arrogantly, Thor tells the two that he will still win against even the both of them. Inferno unleashes her power and blasts Carnivore away. Cap ducks behind a pillar and realizes that, if the Exemplars worked together, they could beat Thor, but they are too competitive. Inferno and Carnivore act nothing like in their files. This isn’t how a bush pilot and a Grecian count should act.
Captain America calls Iron Man on this throat mike and tells Iron Man his findings and points out that the Juggernaut acts nothing like them. Iron Man deduces that the original spell was not complete on Juggernaut or else he would be just as pompous as the rest of them. Iron Man then excuses himself and blasts Bedlam in the back to save Spider-Man, Scarlet Witch and Nova, who were being attacked by the girl. Captain America leaps at Conquest, realizing that the Exemplars have no experience working as a team. He calls Conquests attention towards him. Conquest easily bats the man away and arrogantly tells him that his tactics are nothing compared to hers. However, beating Conquest was not Cap’s intention, as he used her to get himself thrown right into Carnivore, whom he nails right in the chest. Meanwhile, Wonder Man punches the distracted Conquest.
Thor and Hercules find themselves backed up against each other, while fighting Decay and Tempest. Thor reminds Hercules that the others fight bravely, but they have no hope of winning. Eventually, the other Avengers will fall. Hercules agrees and points out that only an immortal can withstand Decay’s touch, so the battle’s outcome will ride with them. Thor tells Hercules that, while the Avengers distract the others, the two of them should take down the Exemplars one by one. Thor slams Mjolnir into Tempest’s face. Tempests screams in pain, as lightning courses through her body. Hercules knocks Decay back with his mace. However, as the gods prepare for another attack, the other Avengers do not fair well.
Quicksilver speeds around the remaining Exemplars to distract them. While Conquest tries to get Pietro, the Scarlet Witch hits her with a hex. Next, Bedlam tries to get the speedster, but Giant-Man slams her to the ground when she turns her back. Carnivore comes close to Quicksilver, but meets a pile of rocks courtesy of Justice’s telekinesis. Stonecutter aims his large gun at Quicksilver, but Nova destroys the pillar that the Exemplar stands upon, causing him to narrowly misses Quicksilver. Juggernaut watches Firestar, as she takes advantage of Inferno’s mistake of turning her back. Cain cannot believe that the Avengers actually came to fight for him. However, things change in a heartbeat.
As Quicksilver passes Conquest, who is on the ground, she grabs his foot, determined not to let him make fools of them anymore. She quickly gets up and throws Quicksilver into a wall and knocks him out cold. The Scarlet Witch turns to call out her brother’s name, but isn’t even able to do so, as Bedlam sends a psychic blast through her head. Justice and Wonder Man are easily felled by the same attack. Tempest, no longer in battle with Hercules and Thor, catches Firestar and the Wasp in her freezing cold winds. Next Inferno unleashes pure kinetic energy on Nova and Giant-Man. Carnivore grabs Spider-Man and uses him as a battering ram as he charges into Captain America. The two are rammed into a pillar, which Decay destroys with his powers. The rubble falls on top of Spider-Man but, in all chaos, no one notices Captain America slip away. Nearby, Iron Man is caught in one of Stonecutter’s machines, which is trying to take control of his armor. Stonecutter is perplexed on why he cannot succeed, but a few modifications later and the golden avenger’s armor goes out of control. Hercules sees this and realizes that all the Avengers have fallen.
Hercules fills Thor in on what happened, and the god of thunder tells the demigod of strength to fight as hard as he can in the name of Earth and the mighty Avengers. The two gods take on the seven Exemplars. However, if they were up against one or two Exemplars, maybe even three or four, they could win. Against all seven, though, even they cannot. Juggernaut cannot do anything but watch, as the energies of the Exemplars coalesce into one and, when the burning light fades, Hercules and Thor are fallen.
Moments later, Stonecutter has transfigured his tractor beam to keep all the captured Avengers and allies suspended in midair with the Juggernaut. As they get ready to execute them all, Stonecutter notices that he counts only thirteen. Decay realizes that Captain America is missing. Stonecutter becomes annoyed and orders Bedlam to find Cap with her telepathy and for Carnivore to hunt him down. Bedlam, not accustomed to taking orders, blasts Stonecutter away to put him in his place. Carnivore pounces oh him and tells Stonecutter that neither of them likes being ordered around, especially by someone like him. If his devices are so special, then why doesn’t Stonecutter find the missing mortal? Conquest pulls out a whip and announces that she has had enough of Bedlam’s tantrums. Tempest agrees and tells Bedlam that they are sick and tired of her. Bedlam gets ready to defend herself as tensions begin to mount.
Behind a pillar, Captain America hides, but is not oblivious to what is going on. The predictable Exemplars are fighting once again. They are arrogant and maybe he can use that against them. Captain America walks out into the open and calls for their attention. The Juggernaut is shocked and then becomes angry. Cap could be going for help, but now he is going to be killed. Hercules tells Juggernaut to stop talking and to try and break free from the bonds, for Cap will need their help. The Scarlet Witch, however, tells Hercules that it looks like Cap is doing okay.
Below, Cap tells the villains that all he wants to do is talk. He is not a serious threat to them alone. He asks if they are scared of what he might say to them. To himself, Cap thinks that now none of them will attack first, for fear of looking weak in front of the others. Cap tells the Exemplars to look around. They destroyed the plaza and now they want to do the same to Earth. Is that what their masters want? Is that what they want as individuals? Are they programmed to do this? Insulted, Carnivore tells Cap to have care, but Cap asks him if he will gut him. That is not Andreas Zorba talking. Confused, Carnivore introduces himself as Carnivore, the hunter Exemplar. Cap asks if that is all he is or all he wants to be. Above, Iron Man asks Thor if he is having any luck escaping. Thor admits that the field is defying even his strength. Iron Man reveals that he has been absorbing the energy in order to weaken the field. Now he is able to move just a little.
Cap reminds the Exemplars that they were all once humans with desires, ambitions and lives. The Juggernaut is still who he was, for good or ill. What about the rest of them? Is there anything left of their old selves? Cap turns to Tempest and calls her by her real name, asking if she really wants to devastate Earth when she worked so hard as a game warden. What about Inferno, who wanted wealth and luxury? What good is that in a world full of war? Who can Carnivore compete against in a world where he would clearly have no equal? Stonecutter can now make things and to communicate in his way, but who will be left to express to? How can Bedlam learn in a world with no schools or teachers? How can Decay still be a patron of the arts when no one will be around to put on plays or paint? Finally, Conquest spent so much time striking back at the injustices of her past. Would she really want to kill her family and friends who have suffered already?
Above, Thor tells Iron Man that if he can move even a little, then he should grab Mjolnir, which Iron Man does. Thor explains that his hammer can absorb certain energy too and, combined with his armor, the effect might free them both. As predicted, Iron Man and Thor are released from the barrier, which they weakened, and descend to the plaza ground, unnoticed. Juggernaut wonders what the two are up to, as they are not busting Stonecutter’s machine and freeing the rest of them. Wasp tells Cain to shush and tells him to see how Cap has captured the Exemplar’s attention.
Cap reminds the Exemplars that they are all strong people and it is hard to believe that they would allow themselves to be used as puppets in this came. Iron Man and Thor move into position around the Exemplars, but Cap shakes his head to tell them not to attack. Only words will win this one. The Exemplars become angry over being compared to puppets. Cap tells the villains that they are getting angry because he speaks the truth. However, they are just words and cannot hurt them. Above, Justice gets worried and hopes Captain America isn’t pushing the Exemplars too far. Giant-Man tells him that there is still a chance. Below, the Exemplars get ready to attack, but Cap remains calm, for he knows the real people are still within the Exemplars. If only he could reach out to just one. Suddenly, Carnivore lunges at Cap, after having enough of his words. Just as suddenly, he is struck by a blow, which is concentrated on his head. Suddenly, all the other Exemplars are hit by the same attack, except for one.
Captain America realizes that Bedlam is attacking the Exemplars. He thought that she would be the hardest to reach, since she was so silent, but she broke free and is spilling her fears and pain through the others. What affect will it have though? Bedlam’s attack finishes and she begins to cry. The other Exemplars recuperate and begin to speak all at once; not as Exemplars, but as the humans they once were. They all look at Captain America and realize that they are in big trouble, as it dawns upon them that, for some reason, the Avengers are here. Inferno says goodbye and quickly teleports all the Exemplars away.
The plaza begins to fall apart, as the barrier holding the Avengers collapses. Justice catches Hercules and Scarlet Witch. Captain America orders all the people who can fly to grab someone who cannot. Stonecutter was the reason this stone structure held and, with him gone, it is falling to rubble. The Avengers fly out of the fortress, as it breaks into pieces and falls into the East River.
Later on, Giant-Man wonders what will happen to the Exemplars. They may be gone for now, but they are still dangerously powerful. He guesses that they will never know until one of them returns again. Nova interrupts and apologizes for ruining to mood, but the cops are here…and so is the Juggernaut. The other Avengers confront Juggernaut, who is surrounded by many troops who all have their guns trained on him. Juggernaut admits that even though he could probably beat them all, since they saved his life he will leave in peace. Happy, Captain America thanks Juggernaut. As Juggernaut boards the police van, he mutters to himself that as soon as he is out of the city he can just bust loose anyway. The van then leaves.
Captain America tells the team that they better get back to the mansion to file a missing persons report for the Exemplars. The Scarlet Witch tells Cap that things aren’t as over as they seem. Everyone turns around to see the media rushing towards them, some asking why they let the Exemplars go, others asking if this is a pattern of defeat after the Grim Reaper and Alkhema, and others who say that if the black Avenger Photon was on the team they could have one, because “experts” claimed they could of.
Jokingly, Spider-Man admits that it is nice that the media isn’t after him for a change. Captain America becomes angry but, before he can address the crowd, Thor notices a reporter ask Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch if the Avengers are making an alliance with Magneto. Enraged, he tells the reporters that he has had enough. He calls them all jackals and tells them that they show no respect at all. He then hurls Mjolnir at a television cameraman, whose video gets cut off as the hammer shatters it.
Later, the Avengers watch the events on the news, as the media reports how the Avengers assaulted news reporters. The Wasp whimsically mentions that she doesn’t think that it ended very well. Annoyed, Thor tells her to watch what she says. Captain America tells the team that they are used to good public relations, but now they don’t have it, which leads to what he must say. They have had mutants on the team before. They have had all-white rosters. It is obvious that someone is targeting them and is using anything to distort and exaggerate to hurt them. Maybe it is the Triunes, maybe not. All he can do as a leader is lead them to victory, but he cannot do that against an indirect foe. They know his approach and are turning it against the Avengers. They predicted his silence and that the charges would go unanswered. The Avengers need a better leader who can lead the team into battle and to deal with the world, like Iron Man. Accordingly, he is leaving the team immediately and will take the blame for everything.
By the time the Avengers can do anything more but gasp, Captain America is gone.