'- what I get for dropping by to visit last month. Take it from me, Iron Man – being on an outlaw team has its advantages When the active team of Avengers is mostly unavailable, an emergency squad consisting of the Beast, USAgent, Wonder Man, Silverclaw and Iron Man answer a distress call which pits them against the Elements of Doom. Another team consisting of Thor, She-Hulk and Triathlon soon comes to their aid, and the Avengers battle the Elements in a busy, densely populated downtown area, where civilians are frequently endangered and much destruction is caused. Captain America and Jack of Hearts arrive at a prison, where Cap investigates the creator of the Elements of Doom, who reveals that the AIM had approached him about re-creating the Elements, but he refused. He learns from the creator how to destroy the Elements of Doom, and this information is relayed to the Avengers, who succeed in taking down the Elements. Afterwards, several of the Avengers participate in an audit of the battle with accountants from the Maria Stark Foundation, who fund the Avengers. Each of the Avengers meets individually with the auditors, including the kindly, long-serving Maxwell Caton, and the feisty, new auditor, Janice Imperato. Janice is adamant that every single action and expense incurred be accounted for, but Maxwell is more leniant. Some of the Avengers are helpful, such as Cap and Iron Man, while others are less cooperative such as She-Hulk and USAgent. Once all of the Avengers have been spoken with, Maxwell and Janice leave and Maxwell explains to Janice that while they can claim expenses for USAgent's actions from the Commission, who employ him, the rest of the events they will just “fudge” in their report, after all, they need to make the Avengers' lives easier.
!' Hank McCoy a.k.a. Beast of the X-Men remarks as he hangs from a wall inside a library within Avengers Mansion. 'I'll keep that on mind, Hank...' Tony Stark a.k.a. Iron Man replies, looking at the inactive Avenger. Steve Rogers a.k.a. Captain America smiles at Jack Hart a.k.a. Jack of Hearts and tells him not to be so glum, and that he knows this is his first one of these, but that it is nothing to worry about. 'Did come this day from far Asgard, where grave responsibilities weight on me, surely, USAgent – there shall be other monster-truck rallies' Thor remarks to John Walker a.k.a. USAgent, who folds his arms and grumbles, while Jennifer Walters the She-Hulk looks at her watch and asks Edwin Jarvis if this is going to take much longer, as she is due at the criminal courts.
Edwin Jarvis then clears his throat and informs the assembled Avengers that their guests are here. Standing in the doorway to the library, a woman stands with one hand on her hip while holding a satchel bag in the other, and a man stands next to her, rubbing his fingertips together. Captain America address the man as Max, and shakes his hand, telling him that it is good to see him, and that it has been a while. The man smiles and thanks Captain America, adding that it is always a pleasure. He tells the Avengers that it is great so many of them could make it, and, referring to the woman standing nearby, remarks that he doesn't think they have met Janice Imperato, who has just joined the Maria Stark Foundation and will be helping out today. “So many?” Janice quotes. 'We specifically requested that all -' Janice begins, quietly, but is interrupted by Max, who tells the Avengers that have not met him that his name is Maxwell Caton, Chief Accountant for the Maria Stark Foundation, who fund the Avengers.
Max continues, explaining that in order for the Foundation to maintain its tax-exempt status, they have to audit the team's expenditures and make sure they are justifiable. He adds that they have picked a recent case and that they will be interviewing them one by one. Max turns to the Beast and suggests they start with him. 'And so the condemned man is led to the gallows. Well, lead on, MacDuff – but when you speak of this in the future – and you will – be kind' the Beast exclaims as he leaps to the floor. As the Beast follows Max and Janice from the room, Cap turns to Iron Man and quietly asks if this isn't avoidable, as Tony Stark set up the Maria Stark Foundation. 'Can't you just, I don't know... dispense with all this?' Cap enquires. Tony explains to Cap that the Maria Stark Foundation accountants are all that stand between the Avengers and the IRS. 'Believe me, rather than deal with the guys they deal with – I'd fight Ultron barehanded in my underwear' Tony admits.
In a nearby room, Janice Imperato declares 'Now, Mr Beast, what we'd like to discuss is the destruction of Quinjet serial #WDGANY0103326', to which the Beast interrupts: 'A base canard! I'm innocent, I tell you! Innocent!' 'Mr Beast...' Janice begins. 'Oh, all right. When the call came in, a lot of the team was unavailable, so they called in the Reserves, and anyone who was in town...' the Beast explains, revealing that the alarm had come from St Louis, so they set out in two Quinjets, proceeded there directly and professionally.
The Beast pilots the Quinjet, and looks back at Maria de Gaudalupe Santiago a.k.a. Silverclaw who tells him that he flies so well, and that she is always so nervous during training that she doesn't think she will ever get the hang of it. Iron Man, USAgent and Simon Williams a.k.a. Wonder Man are also in this Quinjet, and the Beast tells Silverclaw that she will pick it up in no time. He explains that the interface is intuitive and amazingly responsive. 'See?' he asks as he performs some aerial maneuvers with the Quinjet. 'Now flying an SR-71 Blackbird, that's a little tricky' the Beast begins, while Silverclaw exclaims 'Beast, you don't have to – Beast!' as he pilots another acrobatic act. 'Beast!' Silverclaw gasps, as a strange cloud with eyes that glow red appears in front of the Quinjet. 'I won't even have to take my boots off – I'll just -' the Beastr begins, before Silverclaw calls out 'Beast Look!' and turning back to the controls, the Beast sees the strange cloud, and crashes the Quinjet into the street below, where it slides along the road on one of its wings.
The Beast explains that once they got closer to the city, it was an ambush – an ambush in midair. He adds that they were lucky to have someone with animal-like dexterity at the control yoke, or else they would have been history, so he took immediate and appropriate evasive action, however, there was a limit to what even a pilot as skilled as he could do, and ultimately, he made the best landing he could under the circumstances, crashing the Quinjet into a building. The Beast adds that he is pleased to say that his instincts proved sound, even with a crippled ship, he managed to bring them right into the heart of the disturbance!
'Everyone all right?' Wonder Man asks as he, the Beast, Silverclaw, USAgent and Iron Man emerge from the Quinjet. Civilians are running from where several strange, monstrous beings are gathered. The cloud-like being tosses a car up into the air, while a large black creature exclaims 'The Avengers!' to which the cloud creature remarks that they were told to expect resistance. 'Forward, my brothers! Show our new masters what we can do – and kill them! Kill them all!' the cloud creature calls out.
'So, you see, only a combination of quick-thinking and consummate skill could have -' the Beast begins, but Janice mutters 'Hmph! Skill? That's not what the witnesses say! An ambush, by a creature made entirely of vapor? I think you were -' Janice is then interrupted by Max, who reminds her that Dr McCoy is here voluntarily, and that he is sure he has got things to do, he suggests they move on.
Iron Man is next, and Janice Imperato informs him that their concern with him is a bill from Comsat – who are charging triple the penalty fees. Max clears his throat, and asks Iron Man to tell them what happened. 'Of course, Max' Iron Man replies, explaining that after the Beast's “landing”, they engaged the creatures terrorizing the city, allowing the citizens to flee.
Silverclaw, the Beast, Wonder Man and USAgent engage the creatures, the large one attacking Wonder Man tells him that he is strong, but the Neodymium is stronger still. 'Neodymium?' Iron Man asks, before he sees another of the strange beings go after some of the locals, and his onboard sensors indicated that the being was made of pure arsenic. The creature blew a gas over the civilians, who started to cough. Iron Man released a low-level wide-dispersion repulsor blast to deal with the attack, saving the civilians. Iron Man informs his teammates that he has seen reports on creatures like this in the files, to which Wonder Man announces that that Iron Man has a good eye, but that he missed out in it, as they have tangled with these clowns before, years ago, in Russia.
Iron Man explains to Macwell and Janice that the radio-link in the Quinjet was demolished so once he took a digital visual and sound data, he used his armor's transmitters to bounce a signal of Comsat's nearest unit, and got the information to Avengers Mansion, where he thought it might be useful. 'Is there a problem with that?' Iron Man enquires. 'The problem, Sir, is that you commandeered the satellite without authorization, disrupting other signals going through it. Their clients weren't happy' Janice explains, holding her suit jacket over her shoulder and leaning against a desk. 'So the afternoon soaps had a little static. I'm not terribly concerned. Comsat and the Avengers do have an emergency arrangement' Iron Man explains.
'Yes, but you were just sending data, not a call for help. If you'd requested permission and waited for a response, the rate would have been -' Janice begins, but Iron Man interrupts her: 'The rate?! I think the Foundation can stand the extra expenditure, under the circumstances'. Janice starts pointing at Iron Man and tells him that is not his call to make. 'The Maria Stark Foundation was set up by your employer, not you -' she snaps, declaring that it should not be regarded as his pprivate piggy-bank. 'Ah, Janice? Janice? You may've missed the news...' Max remarks. He starts whispering something in Janice's ear and she goes wide-eyed. 'What? Oh! My...apologies, Mr Stark. I've been busy , and hadn't heard. As a Board member of the Foundation, you're of course authorized to -' Janice begins. Stark tells Ms Imperato not to worry about it, for as it turned out, the timing of the transmission was helpful, as Captain America and Jack of Hearts had arrived at the mansion and were about to follow the other group when the call arrived.
Captain America and Jack of Hearts look up at a large monitor screen, depicting the Element of Doom member called Beryllium. 'So the Elements of Doom are back. I wonder who cooked them up this time?' Cap wonders. 'The Elements of Which?' Jack asks. Cap explains that they are artificial beings, first created in a nuclear experiment gone wrong, and they didn't come back by themselves. Cap tells Jack that he has an idea, and asks him to come with him. 'To St Louis?' Jack enquires. 'Not directly, no' Cap tells him.
Iron Man tells the Maria Stark Foundation officials that he is sure Captain America and Jack of Hearts can fill them in on their part of it themselves. Max agrees that he is sure they will, and informs Iron Man that they will get to Captain America and Jack of Hearts later, before asking him to send USAgent in.
USAgent stands with his arms folded across his muscular chest and a frown on his face which is mostly obscured by his helmet. 'Very well, then. If you could take us through the events in question, Sir, we'll...' Janice Imperato begins, to which USAgent tells her 'Nope, sorry'. 'What?' Janice asks. 'I'm a busy man. That day's gone clean outta my mind' Walker claims. Max offers to refresh USAgent's memory, and reminds him that the Elements did not have any particular objective – reports stated they were just causing as much destruction and terror as they could – and with people fleeing office buildings and stores, they had an ongoing supply of victims.
As one of the large Elements of Doom looms over several civilians, the Beast calls out to USAgent, informing him that looks like Ruthenium, not one of the toop elements, but not exactly an inert gas, either. 'Give me a hand with him!' the Beast exclaims. 'What?' USAgent calls back, before he turns and runs in another direction. 'Forget it, X-guy. You're no more an active Avenger than I am – and even if you were, I wouldn't take orders from you!' USAgent exclaims. 'You're such a big shot – handle it yourself!' USAgent adds. 'Fabulous. Like working with Wovlerine without the sunny disposition...!' the Beast mutters as he swings on Ruthenium's arm and kicks him in the face.
USAgent sees one of the Elements of Doom attacking a car. 'There! There's a clear and present danger if ever I saw one!' Walker tells himself, while the Element of Doom exclaims 'Die, humans – beneath the wheels of your own -' as USAgent decides that as gritty and shaley as the Element of Doom looks, he is betting a little water presure is all it will take to wash him away. But as he knocks the top off of a hydrant and water gushes into the air, 'Agent, no!' Wonder Man calls out to his longtime West Coast Avenger teammate. 'That's Sodium! You hit him with water, and -' Wonder Man begins, but it's too late, as USAgent uses his shield to divert the rising water straight at Sodium. 'Eh? What have you -?' Sodium begins, before an instant later, he explodes, leaving USAgent to shield the nearby civilians.
'Sodium, when combined with water, releases hydrogen gas – which in seconds, generally ignites' Janice explains, adding that Iron Man managed to shield a few people from the blast, but that another eight were burned and required hospitilization, the costs of which were billed to the Maria Stark Foundation. 'What we'd like you to do is justify why you chose to -' Janice begins, but USAgent interrupts her, telling her to forget it. 'They're alive, right? They should be grateful' he declares, before remarking that he knows Janice's type – just chip chip chip, looking for holes, looking to drag heroes down. 'I don't have to answer to you. I go out there and save lives. You just pay the bills'. USAgent suggests that they just be good little bean-counters and pay them. 'Why, you arrogant, overbearing -' Janice retorts, but once again Max calms her down, telling her that he thinks they have gotten all they are going to get from the good Agent, and suggests that they move on.
Soon, Thor joins Max Caton and Janice Imperato in the other room. Max thanks him for coming, adding that he knows Thor has taken a leave of absence from the Avengers. 'Thou dost wish to hear the battle, good Maxwell Caton, and so hear it thou shalt!' Thor responds, adding that it was a glorious conflict indeed. He explains that they were the second to arrive, he, She-Hulk and Delroy Garrett Jr a.k.a. Triathlon, they reached the target and were set upon most foully.
'There they are!' She-Hulk exclaims as she looks out the front screen of the Quinjet, seeing the other Avengers battling the Elements of Doom. Triathlon is piloting the Quinjet, and announces that he will bring them down. But, suddenly, a large hand reaches up into the air, 'Holy cats! Everybody – look out!' Triathlon exclaims as the Quinjet is torn apart. The three Avengers are thrown into the air. Thor lands safely, while She-Hulk lands head-first in some rubble, and Triathlon finds his own way to get safely to the ground. Within moments, they join the battle agaainst the Elements of Doom, and Thor tells them to fight well and honorably. 'And die, Thor – at the hands of Cesium!' the energy-like Element of Doom declares. Thor looks at his hammer which glows with energy from Cesium, and he finds this amusing. 'You – you're absorbing my power?' Cesium asks, surprised. Thor declares that he is the Thunder God, so lightnings from any quarter are his to command. 'And as for power, creature – here – let me show thee power!' Thor calls out as he grabs Cesium and tosses the Element of Doom against a building, where it explodes, spectacularly.
'And that was but the first of them I did fell, Recordskeeper' Thor boasts, smiling, he clenches a fist and exclaims 'Satisfying myself that he was truly defeated, I did turn -' Thor begins, but Maxwell interrupts him, asking Thor to wait, as he explains that it is the building he hurled Cesium into that he wanted to ask about. 'The one that collapsed, it was empty, there was no loss of life – but it was expensive. Was it really necessary to destroy it?' Maxwell enquires. 'Eh? The building?' Thor replies, admitting that he did not give it a moment's thought, other than that it was unpeopled. He adds that the creature was felled, and so soundly, so. 'Is that not what is important?' Thor asks. Maxwell agrees, but explains to Thor that they must still justify the expenditure of funds. Thor tells Maxwell that Iron Man told him he was a treasurer, and so he came prepared. 'Here. This is purest Asgardian gold. It should more than suffice to pay for the building. Be that all?' Thor asks, placing a small sack of gold onto the desk. Janice smirks, while Maxwell explains to Thor that they are always grateful to get donations, but that they have the money, and it is the paperwork they need to do. Thor apologizes and declares that he has duties aplenty as Lord of Asgard, and while he stands readt to aid his comrades at any turn, he has little time for “paperwork”. He then bids Maxwell good day. Maxwell sighs and calls out 'Next?'
'I really do have an appointment. If we could get through this...' She-Hulk announces as she looks down at Janice, who declares that she has had about enough of this high-handed treatment. 'We're here on legitimate business, and we have legitimate inquiries' she explains. 'Now, about this other demolished building, at 1322 Chestnut...' she begins. She-Hulk tells her that she knows the one she means, and explains that she had been helping the others contain a group of the Elements, when she heard something.
She-Hulk fights alongside Triathlon, Thor and Wonder Man when she notices several humans in the entrance way to a building. The Element of Doom called Nickel calls out to Tungsten, who is nearby, and points out that many humans are cowering within the structure, to which Tungsten declares that they can die there, as the two Elements start smashing away at the pillars at the front of the building. She-Hulk intercepts the Elements, easily tossing them aside, and before the front of the building can collapse, she quickly puts herself under it, holding the building up, she calls out to the civilians, instructing them to head south away from the fighting, and assuring them that she will hold it until they are clear.
To She-Hulk's surprise, an older man goes over to her and tells her that this is his building and that he is holding her personally responsible for wrecking it. 'I got mental anguish here! I got unreasonable pain and suffering! I'll sue you for so much, it'll be decades before you can even buy yourself a candy bar'. She-Hulk tells him that everybody is out, so she will drop this now, and while she will be fine, she can take it, she would suggest that he scoots. 'Uh – uh -' the man responds, before rushing away as She-Hulk drops the building down around her.
She-Hulk remarks that the man scooted, and asks if he is actually suing. Looking at a document, Janice reports that he is suing the Foundation, She-Hulk personally, the Avengers severally and as a group, and more. 'I'd take him seriously, if I -' Janice begins, but She-Hulk declares that she wouldn't, that it is a meritless suit brought for nuisance value in the hopes that they will settle rather than fight. 'I know the type' She-Hulk remarks, suggesting to Janice that she tell the man they are planning extensive depositions, will look into his building's safety records and tie up his top management for weeks. 'He'll fold. So, can I go?' She-Hulk asks. Janice looks a little odd and admits that she had forgotten She-Hulk is a lawyer, too.
Shortly, Captain America enters the room, and Maxwell smiles at him, telling Cap to make himself comfortable. Maxwell flips through a file and remarks that he thinks Cap has been at more of these than anyone, and reports that today they have got a federal prison personal-possession voucher request and a parking ticket. 'Well, yes. It was a little unusual' Cap admits, explaining that he and Jack of Hearts flew to the federal prison near Philadelphia, and the parking lot was full and the grounds were wet from recent rains, so the parklands wouldn't take the Quinjet's weight, so they had to land in a side street, effectively blocking it, which is where the ticket comes in.
Cap had called ahead and arranged to meet with the prison warden, but as they head in, they hear some strange noises. Cap tells Jack to fly them over the prison wall, and as he does, they discover the Element called Platinum fighting some prison officers. 'You think to stop me, soft ones? You will not stop me! I will kill the creator, as commanded -' Platinum exclaims. '- and as many of you as standing my way!' Platinum adds as the prison officers shoot him, to no avail. Cap asks Jack of he can handle Platinum on his own, and Jack assures him that he can. 'Good. Because I've got urgent business inside!' Cap calls out as he makes his way into the prison.
Cap uses his Avengers security clearance to get through the total lockdown that had begun the minute Platinum breached the walls, and makes his way to the cell of Dr Vasily Khandruvitch, the man who had originally created the Elements of Doom, who had been hailed after re-creating them in the United States over a year ago. But Cap decides that from what he has read of the trial transcripts, he didn't think Khandruvitch would be likely to have done it a third time. 'Captain America! Oh, I am so glad it is you, and not... them!' Khandruvitch calls out. Cap realizes that Khandruvitch knows that his Elements are up and running again, and informs him that they are ripping up St Louis, and while it appears to be a test run, they are still dangerous and destructive. 'Yes! They were created this time, by Advanced Ideas Mechanics – by AIM!' Khandruvitch exclaims.
Dr Khandruvitch reveals to Captain America that he was in his cell one night, when the AIM contacted him via hologram – they had his old notes and his working papers, and wanted him to help re-create the Elements, but he refused, and told the AIM operative that the Elements tried to take over the world – twice – so he will stay in prison, a free man in time, not an outlaw. The AIM operative responded by telling Dr Khandruvitch that he had his chance to co-operate, but that he must know that if he is not with them, then he is against them, and for his refusal, he will be silenced by his own creations.
Khandruvitch tells Cap that he said nothing, and hopes that they fail, but he heaerd the news, and is in fear. Cap informs Khandruvitch that in his experience, the AIM isn't all that hot-blooded, and if they want gim silenced it would be for some logical reason, which is why he is here, too. He then remarks that he recalls how Khandruvitch once created a way to shut down the elements. Khandrivitch starts writing some notes at his desk and reports that if you destabilize the crystalline structure of their brains, they lose coherence and dissolve. He explains that he has been making notes all day, and continues to write some more.
Cap reports that Khandruvitch gave him the schematic, and while the prison has rules about paper going in and out, he didn't have time to comply with them, which is why he is asking for a retroactive voucher. He hands Maxwell and Janice the voucher paperwork, plus a written report, including names and addresses of people who can confirm all this, including the badge number of the officer who ticketed the Quinjet. 'Well! That's more like it!' Janice smiles.
Soon, Jack of Hearts sits before Janice and Maxwell and tells them that they are probably used to Avengers who know all the procedures, but that he has never done this before, so he just wants to tell them what happened, and then they can ask him whatever.
Jack has defeated Platinum, as Cap returned to him, handing him the paper that Khandruvitch gave to him. Cap explains to Jack that it is a solution, and they need it in St Louis as fast as possible, and as there is no time for a Quinjet, Jack will have to take it. And as a parking warden writes a ticket for the illegally parked Quinjet, Jack flies overhead, thinking that his top speed has never been clocked, he doesn't know if it can, as when he really opens up, he is capable of interplanetary travel, and although it takes a while to accelerate that much, though, he doesn't have time or room for that, but he pours on the power, and thinks that he arrives in St Louis just over three minutes later, calling out to the others and reporting that he has the answer.
Wonder Man, the Beast and Iron Man take the paper and salvage the components from the wrecked Quinjets and supplies from onboard labs, until finally, they put together a chemical destabilization cannon, as the Beast calls it, adding that Iron Man couldn't help but improve one the specifications. The Beast remarks that as Jack brought the plans, he should do the honors. So he does, holding the cannon above the Elements, Jack fires it, and it does everything that it is supposed to – shutting down the Elements' brains, and since their brains were what maintained their humanoid shapes, all that remains as the Elements break down is a bunch of decomposing goop.
Jack reports that once Cap got there, they chased down the AIM cell responsible, but Jarvis tells him that is considered a separate mission, at least from an accounting perspective. Jack apologizes for the fact that the goop clogged up the sewer system, and adds that if he had been thinking, perhaps he could have done something – decoyed them into a container or something before he blasted them. Maxwell tells Jack that it is not to worry, as it was an emergency, after all, and adds that they will just make a few more notes, and then be out of his hair.
Soon, 'So? All done?' the Beast asks as Janice and Maxwell walk back into the room where the Avengers are waiting. 'All done' Maxwell confirms. 'And, ah, did we pass?' the Beasrt grins. 'No burly government agents showing up at my door? Sentinel program not being restarted over improper use of an Avengers Quinjet?' Beast jokes. Maxwell smiles and tells the Beast that would be up to the government, as they just fill out the forms. Maxwell assures the Avengers that they will get right on them, and that they will have a full copy of their report in tomorrow's mail. Janice leaves without even looking at the Avenges, while Maxwell waves at them and thanks them for the help.
'Was that... normal?' Janice asks as she and Maxwell walk down the front path away from Avengers Mansion. Maxwell assures her it was pretty standaerd, wiith only one real area of difficulty, and that gives them a chance to address it. He adds that he spoke to Mr Stark last week, and he agreed, since the USAgent won't cooperate with Foundation procedures, they are to forward any and all bills for expenditure related to him yo the Commission for Superhuman Activity, as he works for them, through STARS, so they can pay his way. 'And – and that's it?' Janice asks, surprised. 'What about the others? Aside from Captain America, I think it was te sloppiest, most disgraceful -' she begins, and as they get into a cab, Maxwell tells her that they will just fudge it a little. “Fudge it?” Janice quotes. Maxwell assures her that they will stay within the boundaries, but be a little vague here and there – after all, they are here to help the Avengers, not put them out of business. He adds that they are here to make the Avengers' job, which is a pretty damned important one, easier. 'Well, yes, but – but “fudge it -”?' Janice asks. And as the cab speeds off, Maxwell suggests she think of it as a challenge.