In one of the lounges of the Avengers Mansion, thunder crashes and lightening strikes as the Asgardian God Thor cries out against the intolerable accusations set forth against the Avengers. Jarvis looks horror stricken with concern for the carpet, and Tony Stark, also known as Iron Man, owner of Avengers Mansion, proclaims that he doesn’t want anymore family heirlooms destroyed by battles or other events occurring in the Mansion. While Iron Man calms Thor, the Scarlet Witch sits in a chair looking rather bored, the Vision floats around the room, while Captain America watches the television, where the Squadron Supreme are seen making formal accusations against Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.
Thor apologizes to Iron Man, adding that the accusations against them are more than what any hero should have to endure. The Vision sees Iron Man with his face mask up, revealing his identity underneath and suggests to him that he closes it in case Warbird should enter, reminding him she does not know Tony Stark is really Iron Man. The sultry Scarlet Witch snaps at her ex-husband, telling him to shut up as Iron Man can make his own choices. Thor begins to yell at Hyperion on the television as the Squadron leader continues his speech, but Captain America shushes him, telling him there is nothing to be gained by yelling at the television and adding that he actually wants to hear what Hyperion wants to say.
As Hyperion proclaims that he is confident the truth will surface the television screen is suddenly shattered by an arrow from Hawkeye. Everyone turns to face the purple-clad Avenger who proclaims that they should not have to sit and endure any of this, adding that while the Squadron busted up one of their missions, everyone knows that the Squadron’s claims that the Avengers are fakes is untrue. Thor agrees with Clint, reminding everyone that the Avengers have served the world long and faithfully, Iron Man agrees, asking why then do they get threats of security clearances being revoked – unless they can prove the Squadron is lying.
The Vision declares that the response is entirely logical. The Avengers stand around him somewhat miffed at why he said this and asks them to consider his theory – that the Avengers vanished and were presumed dead, then suddenly reappeared, he asks that because of this, how can anyone be sure they are who they say they are. Remaining emotionless as he continues, saying that the world was badly frightened by the threat of the Skrull invasion and the Thunderbolts imposture and asks if they can really blame the world. For what if in deed, the Avengers were dopplegangers created with false memories, and how would they know otherwise?
The Scarlet Witch turns and walks away, declaring that at least she knows who she is, and Hawkeye agrees with her, adding that they could use bio-scans to detect otherwise. Clint walks up to the other men and suggests they go to Washington to confront the Squadron “losers” and make them tell the Avengers who put them up to the lying. Captain America tells Clint that it is not an option, as it would only escalate the problem further. Clint looks Steve Rogers in the face and shouting at him tells the Avengers leader that he deserves a little respect, as he is not a rookie hanging on his every word. He then reminds Cap that he lead an Avengers team for years – to which Cap looks Clint back in the eye and tells him they will talk privately, to which Hawkeye agrees to.
Wanda walks morosely down a corridor, knowing that while she declared she knows who she is, in truth she is not so sure, for all around her the people she thought she could trust are changing, and everything is beginning to feel like an insubstantial dream. Adding to that, Wanda's powers have been different lately too, almost as if they changed without her knowledge, and she has no one to share her concerns with. The daughter of Magneto walks into a pantry and sees one of her best friends, Carol Danvers a.k.a. Warbird, the original Ms. Marvel in the liquor cabinet. Wanda apologizes, but Carol tells her to come in and make herself at home.
Carol proclaims that the whole impostor business was getting to he and she thought she might have a nip or two to settle her nerves. She asks Wanda if she wants to join her, but the Scarlet Witch declines the offer and opens the freezer instead. Carol asks if the Vision is bothering her, and as Wanda picks out some Bavarian chocolate and pecan ice-cream she admits that among other things, he is. For she finds it hard seeing him acting so cold and reserved, compared to when she used to know him- the warm and caring man under the cold exterior. Sitting side-by-side on the bench, Carol asks Wanda if she thinks now there is nothing at all beneath him. Wanda says ‘Something like that’ before cautiously asking Carol if she should be drinking so much. Carol tells Wanda to back off, as she knows her limits. Taking another drink, Carol looks at Wanda and tells her that once she reaches her age, she will realize that ice-cream goes to the hips faster than alcohol.
In the combat simulation room, Hawkeye clenches his fists and tells the star-spangled Avenger that he is ready for him, before reminding him that in Morgan LeFay’s world he valued his input, but ever since he has been blown off like he is some kind of amateur. Captain America tells Clint that he does not want to fight him, and that he knows he did a fine job as team leader. Which is why Clint knows as well as Steve that one slip up, no matter what it could be, may prove fatal, which is why there is only room for one leader – and right now, that is he. Cap asks Clint if he would like him to step down, and miffed, Clint asks Steve if he would do that.
Cap tells Hawkeye that he is a good man and that if he thinks he doesn’t believe it – Clint smirks and tells Cap that there is no need to go that far, as he doesn’t think he would be able to give him orders, revealing though that it gets frustrating taking orders from someone else. Cap tells Hawkeye that he is always there to listen, and Clint jokes that he is no fun to scrap with, to which the two handsome Avengers shake hands. Steve asks Clint if he would assemble the other Avengers in the Quinjet bay and Clint asks if he has a lead. Clint replies that he will do so before asking if Cap would have followed him to Washington if he was leader. Cap tells Clint that he knows he wouldn't have made that decision if he was leader, to which Clint replies that he may be right. Cap frowns as he thinks to himself that it is like riding herd on a string of high-strung racehorses sometimes, though it is the intensity that makes the Avengers the world’s best, though it is never an easy job. Cap worries about Hawkeye’s feelings of confinement, Wanda’s preoccupation, the Visions damages and Warbird – he pulls on his cowl a troubled man.
Minutes later, in a Quinjet, Captain America reveals that they are heading towards Project Pegasus, and asks Hawkeye, who is piloting the jet, if he knows the way. Clint replies that it is on the navigation charts so he will have no problem, before telling Cap that this is a better idea. Captain America thanks Hawkeye before turning around in his chair and telling Warbird that he wants to discuss a few things. He reminds her that when they were fighting the Squadron he ordered her to power up into her Binary form, to use her star-channeling abilities, but she didn’t, though they needed the power, he tells Carol that he wants to know why she didn’t do as she was ordered.
Carol rolls her eyes and sarcastically asks someone to save her from men who don’t think women should be able to act independently. The Scarlet Witch doesn’t seem impressed by Carol’s comment, but says nothing as Carol tells Cap that they are her powers and she will be the judge of how to use them and that he should just butt out and let her do her job without any interference. Cap starts to tell Carol off, but Iron Man shushes him, telling him that it is not such a good idea to press his point. Cap puts up a mild protest before trusting Iron Man when he reveals he thinks he knows what is bugging Carol, and he adds that he will talk to her about it later.
Twenty minutes later, in upstate New York, the Avengers send a call from the Quinjet requesting landing clearance and a meeting with the current director. Someone from the station replies that they can do at least that much and grant them landing permission. As the Avengers depart the Quinjet once it landed, Iron Man is annoyed that Project Pegasus feel that they can do “that much” for the Avengers as they are greeted by Andrew Kappelhof and an entourage of security personal.
Kappelhof introduces himself as the current project administrator and introduces the Blue Shield, the security director whom he believes some of the Avengers know, before asking if there is anything they can help them with. Captain America tells Kappelhof that he seems guarded, wondering why, as the Avengers still have a paladin-level security clearance, which includes access to the Project Pegasus facilities. Kappelhof replies that he knows that, but that his first concern if for the safety of the people here, and he asks the Avengers again what it is they want.
Captain America states that as the Squadron Supreme, who have been residing here, have made such serious allegations against the Avengers, he and his teammates have come to the facility to check it out, with the hopes of finding a reason as to why the Squadron have been acting so strangely. Blue Shield steps forward and informs Cap that they have known the Squadron a long time and that they are not in the habit of lying – before he can continues his speech, Hawkeye cuts him off, calling him a ‘miserable little second-rater’. He asks if he is calling the Avengers fakes too – he would continue except that Cap cuts him off.
Captain America tells Kappelhof that he understands the concerns and informs him that the Avengers would be happy to undergo any tests he wishes to name to establish their identities to his satisfaction. Kappelhof replies that he wishes it were that easy. Warbird suddenly walks over to one of the security personal, asking if he is Jenkins. The man replies that he is, and Carol proclaims that he used to work for Henry Gyrich and the National Security Council. Jenkins replies that he did, then quit, and asks Warbird what difference it makes. Carol cuts him off and declares that he was present when she joined the Avengers as Ms. Marvel. She asks him if he remembers trying to fingerprint her and what she said she would do to him if he didn’t let go of her wrist.
Jenkins smiles and sheepishly tells Kappelhof that they are the Avengers, that he is sure of it. The director remarks that it is highly irregular, however he admits that it would be a very hard incident to fake, and he tells the Avengers that they can come in. Captain America frowns, and Warbird smiles, telling him that he is welcome. The Blue Shield leads the Avengers inside the complex and apologizes for his attitude earlier, justifying it be saying they have to be very careful here as there is a lot of top-secret material in the silo, so they need to be careful. Blue Shield adds that they have done a lot of construction since the last time any of them were here, so they might not recognize the complex. Admiring said construction, Hawkeye lets out a loud whistle.
Leading the Avengers through the complex, he tells them that as they know, Project Pegasus does a lot of research in alternate energy sources, but since the shut down their active parahuman studies, they have undertaken a lot of new research. Shield introduces the Avengers to Dr. Riveria, who is cataloging all parahumans known to exist, enabling them to cross-reference by powers, history, modus operandi and more. Riveria states modestly that he doubts they will ever be finished, but that they are making great progress. He asks the Avengers if there is anything they would like to see, and Cap states that he would like to see a list of criminals known to influence minds.
Riveria tells him that that was a “nice one” and after pressing a few buttons on his keypad, a large monitor in front of the Avengers displays the faces of twenty villains, such as Baron Zemo, Mesmero, the Corrupter, Martinique Jason and Overmind. Riveria states that some of them are dead, but jokes that given the number of resurrections super-folk deal with he thinks it is safer to leave them in, adding that this is only a partial list, but that he could scroll through others if they want the search parameters changed. Captain America thanks Dr. Riveria before declaring that as the Avengers do not have a lot of time, he wants to try other ideas first, adding that thee is no way they could check the whole list before their security clearance is revoked.
The Avengers split up and begin to search the complex. Using their communicators to stay in touch with each other, Iron Man reports to Captain America that he is scanning the Whizzer’s quarters, but that there is no sign of any mind-control technology. Noticing a portrait on the wall, Tony Stark guesses it must be of the Whizzer and his wife and daughter. He seems saddened for the fact that it is only a portrait, that the Whizzer didn’t even have a photograph when he came here. Tony thinks it is rather funny how he has always thought of the Squadron as merely super-heroes wit flashy costumes and powers, but seeing the love in the sketch brings it home that they are just as much real people as the Avengers – and a long way from their home.
In Dr. Spectrum’s room, Warbird holds up a pornographic magazine while reporting to Captain America that there is no sign of any brainwashing material in his room, but plenty of evidence that his mind is shallow enough to control easily. She adds that he has awful taste in beer when suddenly Andrew Kappelhof contacts all the Avengers, suggesting they get to ‘A’ level fast – as they have some trouble. Cap, Wanda, Hawkeye and Thor are already on their way, and Cap asks Kappelhof to hill them in – when he realizes that he doesn’t need to, for waiting for the Avengers on ‘A’ level – is the Squadron Supreme!
Hyperion declares that the impostor Avengers no only try to sully the names of their worlds greatest heroes, but now invade the Squadron’s privacy, planting who-knows-what in their quarters. The Whizzer informs the Avengers that it was a good thing some of their friends at Project Pegasus alerted them from Washington, adding that the impostor Avengers need another lesson in manners. The hot-tempered Dr. Spectrum boasts that the Squadron is just the team to give it to them!
At Captain America’s side, Wanda tells him that the Squadron sound serious, as if they really believe what they are saying. Cap agrees, but tells the Scarlet Witch that they will have to worry about that later, and asks her if she could pull that “trick” with Wonder Man again. Wanda practically clicks her fingers, a simple hex, and Wonder Man appears. The beautiful Scarlet Witch thinks to herself that it was easier this time, but she still doesn’t like doing it, for it doesn’t seem right to conjure him with her powers as if he was some enslaved genie. Simon Williams smiles when he sees Wanda and is about to ask what is going on – when he sees the Squadron and says ‘oh, this again?’
Furious, Hyperion orders his team to attack and show the ersatz Avengers once and for all that no one is a match for the Squadron Supreme! Throwing his hammer at the Squadron’s powerful leader, Thor informs Hyperion that he can try, but as his lies have set his blood boiling with rage, he shall not stand for them anymore, and Hyperion is smashed back into a wall. Dr. Spectrum tells Thor that he did a nice shot on Hyperion, but in doing so let go of the hammer, which now that Spectrum has encased in a spectrum box, isn't letting back.
Hawkeye fires multiple arrows, but Shape changes his body to allow for the arrows to pass through. Shape tells Clint that he cant get him with his arrows, to which Clint replies that he cannot get him either, which is when Haywire tells Clint that Shape was just setting him up so his tanglewire could get him, and Hawkeye is tripped up Shape grabs onto Hawkeye. Flying up in the chamber, Warbird fires blasts at Power Princess telling her that as they never got to face each other last time, she wants to see what she has got. Zarda tells Carol that she has got a shield to block her blasts, and that as for the rest all she needs is her fist – and she catches up to Warbird, smacking her in the face with a powerful punch.
Iron Man watches the Whizzer, realizing that he is too fast for him to track by eye, and links his repulsor rays to his targeting computer to predict where the Whizzer is going to be – he tries, but the Whizzer is still to fast. Arcanna and Wanda face off again, Arcanna deciding that Wanda is far more powerful than she has any reason to be, but that she has more experience in actual magic than the mutant, which she thinks will make her the victor. Wanda tells the blonde witch that that it only puts the odds in her favor, but that she has a habit of beating the odds! Wanda wonders what is happening, as he magic skills are so rusty, she isn't even trying to use real magic head, just her hex sphere, but the magic keeps coming out!
Wonder Man pounds on Dr. Spectrum’s forcefield, asking him if it is true he has to concentrate to keep the constructs up, which means he can keep pounding and break through, which means he will drop Thor’s hammer! Joe Ledger tells Wonder Man that he doesn’t have to hold the constructs up forever, but he doesn’t have to, for Thor is not going to be a factor soon, and Simon Williams sees as Hyperion sends Thor flying through several walls. Goading him by telling him without the hammer he can’t fly, while Hyperion can, which means it is easier for him to reach him.
As Captain America dodges Skylarks sonic blasts, the winged Squadron member asks him why she is always stuck fighting him these days, as she used to fight one of the girls on the team, adding that he wouldn't remember that because he is a fake. Cap tells Skylark that he remembers, but that it is just his luck of the draw that his Squadron equivalent – Nighthawk – died! Catching his breath for a moment, Steve Rogers thinks for a moment that it is not a terribly even battle, for without his old shield, which he could throw, he is vulnerable to distance attacks. Cap’s attention is carried elsewhere, to Warbird who is still fighting Power Princess, and he sees that Carol is still not using her Binary powers, despite being seriously outmatched.
Cap hears as Zarda declares that someone else should have doubled as Ms. Marvel, for they didn’t even get the name right with “Warbird”, but that Ms. Marvel had a flawless reputation, but the way Warbird is fighting, she is not even coming close! Cap agrees with Zarda, and as Skylark comes flying towards him, asking if he forgot to watch his back, he replies that he hoped she would do something like that, and reflects her sonic blast off his shield so that it hits Zarda, knocking Hyperion’s girlfriend out of the game. Warbird flies over to Cap and tells him that she fights her own battles and doesn’t need his help, but Cap cuts her off and tells her that they are a team and help each other, and that as she is in the clear can help someone else. Just to annoy Cap, she cries ‘Fine!’ and knocks Skylark out easily before telling Cap to butt out of her fights.
Below, Shape has wound himself around Hawkeye and in his usual child-like manner tells Clint not to tickle him as he learned that trick. Struggling, Clint declares that he is not beaten yet, but Shape tells him he is, to which Clint tries to reach something in one of his pouches, and pulling it out, Shape asks what it is. Holding it up to Shape, Clint informs him it is a flare arrow, and setting off the flare, Shape cries out that he has been blinded, thus freeing Clint.
Several levels down, on the transit corridor known as the Loop, Iron Man pursues Whizzer, telling the speedster that it isn't as easy to get away from him in the confined spaces, as he cannot get up to full speed. Stanley Stewart boasts that he is not running away, but waiting until Iron Man has enough momentum, for he realizes that between Iron Man’s jets and computers he is doing great for speed, but that at this velocity, he is betting he steers like a rock! And with that, Iron Man crashes into a wall, while Whizzer turns the corner with ease.
Meanwhile, Wonder Man sees Hyperion pummeling Thor, and tells Dr. Spectrum that he was right, he cannot get to the hammer to help Thor. Instead of trying to get the hammer back, he will just use Dr. Spectrum himself to help Thor, ad Wonder Man hurls Spectrum who is encased in a protective ball at Hyperion. The two powerful Squadron men clash, and Thor’s hammer falls back into Thors’ hand, the Norse god thanking Wonder Man.
Nearby, Arcanna and Wanda still hold their own against each other in a stalemate, Arcanna declaring that there is no way Wanda should be able to hold out this long against her. Wanda agrees, but thinks to herself that somehow her powers are protecting her and not just deflecting Arcanna’s magic, but absorbing it! Wanda can somehow touch it and listen to it. She feels that something is wrong with Arcanna and the whole Squadron. Wanda concentrates hard, expanding her hex sphere to include the whole Squadron, and it reaches them, firstly with the most reasonable members – Arcanna, then Haywire and the Shape, Power Princess and Hyperion, then lastly, Dr. Spectrum, Skylark and the Whizzer.
They all wonder what is going on, and Wanda realizes that whatever she is doing is actually working, and that the Squadron appear to be coming out of their mind control. Wanda doesn’t know how she is doing it – and suddenly someone knocks her out from behind. Warbird and Cap see that it was the Blue Shield, who as-if in a trance, declares that the Avengers are impostors and must be stopped. Kappelhof comes up behind and orders the Avengers to surrender. Turning to the Squadron he tells them to use lethal force to bring the Avengers down without delay. Dr. Spectrum and Power Princess ask Kappelhof who he is as they find something strange about his voice.
Kappelhof reminds the Squadron that he is their commander and that they have to obey his orders. Standing back somewhat, Warbird asks Hawkeye if he has got him in clear shot, and Hawkeye replies he has, firing his arrow at Kappelhof, it streaks across his chest and his whole body shimmers, changing form. Cap helps Wanda to her feet and they join the other Avengers and the Squadron as they all stare at the man before them, someone they just saw on Dr. Riveria’s display screen – the Corrupter!
The blue-skinned man stands aghast, declaring that his plan cannot have gone wrong, for it was perfect! He states that if the Warbird didn’t pull that stunt with Jenkins then he would have another pretext, and while the Avengers were kept delayed at Project Pegasus, he called the Squadron. Holding up his arrow with a device stuck in it, Clint proclaims that the Corrupter was disguising himself with an image inducer, and Warbird was the first to realize something was wrong with him. Smiling, Warbird proclaims that she scanned him with one of their high-tech scanners and found the image inducer, which is why she let Hawkeye know where to shoot. The Corrupter begins to protest until Power Princess walks up to him and slaps him hard across the face, telling him he has said enough.
Later, after order has been restored, in a secure room, Arcanna stands over the restrained Corrupter as she uses her magical powers on him. Trying to discover why he did what he did, but to no avail, as she reports to the Avengers that he has a post-hypnotic block installed in his mind and she cannot break it. Arcanna knows he was working for someone, but she has no idea whom. Speaking into a view screen to Cap, Hyperion and Blue Shield, Arcanna states that at least he is captured and the Project can contain him until the authorities are ready to take him away.
Hyperion walks beside Captain America and tells him that the Squadron will go to Washington to straighten things out, while the Avengers go back to being the worlds “fair-haired boys” ‘While we go back to living in our hole in the ground’ snaps Dr. Spectrum. Hyperion sarcastically remarks that it is a nice deal all around – for the Avengers at least. Cap narrows his eyes and tells Hyperion that he is going to write that last comment off as the last vestiges of the Corrupter’s effect, because otherwise, he would by way out of line. ‘Oh? So who gets to go home?’ Sternly, Cap replies that he and his team do, but that he wishes the Squadron could too. He tells Hyperion to remember what he says now – that all of this started because they let them selves get mind controlled, for about the fourth time. Cap walks away while Zarda and Dr. Spectrum try to hold Hyperion back from attacking him as he states that he doesn’t like it when his team gets smeared, especially not as a result of someone else’s carelessness.
As Cap walks up to the other Avengers, Carol tosses him the device she found on the Corrupter and tells him that she is surprised to find out he has a bite. Carol tells him he can keep the device, for it might remind him next time that all the underlings can think for themselves. Catching the device, Cap replies that he has nothing against initiative, or independent thought, but what he doesn’t like is not knowing his teams capabilities. He declares that if there is something wrong with her powers that he should know about - Carol cuts him off and tells him she knows he has been looking for an excuse to kick her off the team, and now he thinks he has found it!
Carol tells Cap that she is onto him, and flying away from the compound she cries back that his plans to get rid of her will not work. ‘Paranoid much?’ says Hawkeye as he and the others watch Warbird leave. Iron Man states that Carol is troubled and needs understanding more than anything else. Wanda watches as her best friend leaves upset and the others look on oddly. Iron Man is about to follow Warbird when Cap tells him to hold off, for Carol is in no mood to talk now, they need to let her cool down, then perhaps they can find out what is wrong.
Some hours later, Imus Champion stands in his office as an assistant informs him of the recent events involving the Avengers and the Squadron. Imus asks if he has lost control of the Squadron and the Corrupter, and the assistant replies he has but that the post-hypnotic guard seems to have worked and the Corrupter cannot be traced back to him. Imus states that that is good to hear and as he stubs his cigarette out in a “ashtray” which happens to be the head of Ultron, he regrets that this was all-in-all a blunder, for he used the Squadron to distract from the raid on the spaceship. He fears that this ended up being a sacrifice of two acquisitions to gain one, though he knows there will be a reckoning and that it will come soon, for the Avengers have thwarted him twice now – and Imus Champion does not like to lose!