(Infinite Avengers Mansion, Veil’s quarters)
Madeleine wakes up and forgets, just for a minute, that the atoms in her body are slowly losing cohesion. She is brought to reality by a small robotic arm that pops out of the wall. A voice asks her to extend her arm which she does, checking her molecular density. It only serves to remind her that she’s dying. Dr. Pym has promised to help her and to find a cure, but now she’s on probation because she was stupid. If she makes one wrong move she’ll be kicked out. Every day, Maddie hopes things will get better, but they only get worse.
Hazmat stretches out the night and remembers a happy dream. She feels the way she used to feel. Then, she remembers that she’s only really alive in this room. She looks at the yellow suit hanging on the wall, knowing she might well be stuck inside it for the rest of her life. After a few minutes, reality has sunk in. Today’s gonna suck as much as all the others, but just a little bit harder because it’s one more day with no end in sight.
(superhuman ethics class)
The students take part in a virtual reality training session. Veil struggles with the scenario and fears that she might get kicked out if she doesn’t do well. Justice assures her that it’s part of the learning process. She won’t get kicked out for getting an answer wrong. Hazmat disagrees. She quotes Tigra when she said that the next mistake will be their last at the school. Speedball explains that by that she meant ‘irresponsible choices,’ like trying to kill or beat up criminals, which they did… behind their backs. However, when they’re training, no one expects them to be perfect. The teachers are there to help them get better and they can only do that by taking chances.
Veil replies that they’re on probation. These extra classes are the only way they can get back in good standing. She asks how he did it. How did he get everyone to forgive him after he got all those people killed in…
She stops talking and cover her mouth as she realizes what she’s saying. Everyone is equally shocked, but Speedball takes it in his stride. He admits that he’s the poster boy for young superhumans making disastrous decisions. He turns to Vance and mentions that he’s been in touch with ‘them.’ He asks if he thinks tomorrow could still work. Vance says he’ll have to confirm but he can’t see why not. Robbie is pleased and he tells the class that they’re going on a field trip. Not just those on probation - All of them. They’re going to the place where he made the worst mistake of his life, and six hundred people died because of it. He walks away, but tells Veil that some people may have forgiven him, though not everyone. Not even close. That’s why they’re trying to reach them. Some things you can never undo.
(the next morning)
Hazmat is at her enforced anger management class with Giant-Man. She reckons it sucks. It’s bad enough she’s the only one who has to attend this class, but she’s been taught mental health by the craziest Avenger of all time. Hank corrects her on a few points. One, the Sentry was far crazier than he was. Two, she’s not managing her anger very well at the moment and three, she’s not being punished. He knows it’s hard to control your temper when there’s no light at the end of the tunnel, so he’s been working on giving her one. Power dampening technology, he continues, like S.P.I.N. tech, would just remove her ability to use her powers, not her inherent toxicity. However, he’s found another, albeit temporary, solution.
He introduces Leech, who currently works for Reed Richards at the Future Foundation Think Tank. With Reed’s approval, he has graciously agreed to spend the day with them. Jenny’s eyes widen. “He… he can make me normal?” she asks. Hank tells her he can, for a short time. He bets she’s dying to get out of that suit.
She soon heads to her quarters and removes the suit, putting on her normal clothes instead. He tells her that it’s okay for her to come out. He’s drained all the toxins from her body and, with Leech present, she won’t produce any new ones. He will stay with her but, aside from that, he’s giving her the morning to with as she wishes. “Have fun.” Jenny rushes over and hugs him tightly before grabbing Leech’s hand and asking him to go with her. She hasn’t been to the park in ages. Meanwhile, following her outburst yesterday, Veil’s day goes from bad to worse.
(Extra-terrestrial culture class with the Protector)
As Noh-Varr speaks, Striker whispers to her that he loved it when she just pointed at Speedball and said ‘Hey! There’s a big honin’ elephant in the room and it’s wearing blue and yellow.’ He doesn’t see why they should get into trouble when he’s done a million times worse.
(Applied chemistry class with Giant-Man)
As Hank speaks, Reptil leans over to Veil and tells her she needs to apologize right away, otherwise she just passed Hazmat in the ‘most likely to get booted out’ pool.
(Rudiments of Magic class with Dr. Strange)
As Strange tells Reptil that he finds his amulet fascinating, being created by a prehistoric extradimensional sorcerer, Finesse tells Veil, who is looking distinctly down by now, that she finds apologizing risky. It might just make Speedball angries. If she were Veil, she wouldn’t say anything without first gauging his mood.
Veil goes walkabout. The last time she went into a teacher’s room without permission she walked in on Justice and his girlfriend playing tonsil hockey. However, this is different. She just wants to find out what kind of mood Speedball is in before she knocks and apologizes. If it’s bad then she’ll disappear. ‘Please don’t be naked, please don’t be naked,’ she thinks. She transforms into her mist form and moves silently through the crack under the door. She finds Robbie looking at his Penance helmet. It looks like he’s reflecting on his past. That seems kind of normal. She then sees him move the helmet to his left arm and use one of the spikes to make another cut across the inside of his forearm. ‘Oh. Oh, my gosh,’ she thinks.
She wafts back under the door and reforms once she’s outside. She can’t believe it. Teachers aren’t supposed to cut themselves. She tries to recall what they learned in psych class. People cut themselves to get a sense of control, or just to feel something besides numb. Usually it’s triggered by stress… like going to the place where you killed six hundred people. She covers her mouth as she thinks about what she should do. Talk to him about it? He’ll deny it and kick her out. Talk to someone else? Then she would have to admit she was spying and they’ll still kick her out. As she think, Justice appears and asks if she needs something. She flashes a smile at him and replies, “No. Everything’s fine.”
(Golden Gate Park, San Francisco)
Hazmat is with Leech and reveling in her newfound freedom. She strokes a friendly dog during a game of Frisbee and tells her companion that this is heaven. She can’t remember the last time she felt sun on her face. The dog tries to lick her face and she teases it. “Okay, boyfriend. We’ve played long enough. How’d you like to meet my parents?” Leech’s face drops a little and Jenny notices. She asks what’s wrong. She then realizes that Leech’s parents were mean to him. She informs him that hers weren’t like that. They live in San Francisco and some of their best friends are mutants. She reckons that when they see her like this it’ll be better than Christmas morning.
She drags Leech over to see them and bounces into the house. Her mother hugs her tightly thinking Henry Pym has finally cured her, but she admits it’s not permanent. It’s only a temporary thing thanks to her friend Leech. She explains that as long as he’s around he takes away her powers for a little while. Her father apologizes, but they’ve prayed for so long that all this could be over. They thought things could go back to normal. Jenny replies that she’s not normal. Not even close. Her father looks at Leech and asks, “You and that boy… you’re not...” She tells him that he’s like twelve or something. He says it’s hard to tell with her. She takes Leech’s hand and leads him to the door, telling them Leech has to head home. Her mother says she’s just got there but, as tears form at the corners of her eyes, Jenny says now she has to go.
(the Stamford Memorial)
Robbie Baldwin explains that the New Warriors started a reality show. They were still super heroes but now they had cameras following them. A lot of it was orchestrated beforehand and they knew what they were getting into. They’d found four escaped criminals hiding out in Stamford, Connecticut. They were Nitro, the Cobalt Man, Coldheart and Speedfreek. They moved in to take them down. They weren’t running in blind, he adds, like some people say. They knew who they were and what they could do. What they didn’t know was that Nitro had enhanced his powers using Mutant Growth Hormone. His normal explosive force was magnified dozens of time. Six hundred people died, including sixty kids and three of his friends. “Gone. Just like that.”
The students listen intently and Reptil says that if he didn’t know about the growth hormone, it wasn’t his fault. Robbie replies that it was their fault because it shouldn’t have mattered. They should have been ready for anything. You always consider the worst-case scenario… the unexpected, because when you don’t, this can happen. He asks them to go ahead and read the names on the memorial and think about each one; what it means and what was lost. He turns to walk away and Justice asks him if he isn’t staying. Robbie replies that he hasn’t earned the right and he knows them already.
Veil looks at him and reckons no wonder he’s in pain. But, if he’s dealing with it by cutting himself he needs help. If he doesn’t get it, she figures, he’ll get worse. He could get them killed, or someone else. She then notices something out of the corner of her eye. Five armored men approach quickly from the air and the leader tells Speedball that he has a nerve coming back to this place - the place where he committed mass murder! Another says that’s fine with them. He should have died and now the Cobalt Men are gonna correct that mistake.
The students ready for battle. Veil becomes mist and Justice creates a TK shield to protect them from the armor’s blasts. Justice informs Hazmat that their suits run on radiation. Can she overload their power cores? Jenny explains that Dr. Pym drained her energies and they haven’t built back up yet.
As Striker uses an electric blast to attack one of them and Mettle grabs another in his massive powerful fingers, Reptil takes to the air. Justice asks Mettle to take point, for Veil to try and infiltrate their suits and knock them out. The rest of them… He then stops talking when he sees Speedball clench his fists. Energy emanates from his eyes as he cries, “No. Not here.” He then unleashes a blast which takes out all five of their opponents. Justice tells him that was amazing, but Veil can only wonder that if he can do that, what if he has a breakdown? Justice tells him he knew Robbie was getting together, but this…
Veil then blurts out that Robbie isn’t getting it together. He’s cutting himself. She saw it. He needs help. She apologizes to Speedball for spying on him but it’s true. Justice asks if what she’s saying is correct. Before he can answer, the cops arrive and one of them congratulates them on their victory. If the place had been wrecked, it wouldn’t have looked good. He figures these idiots were counting on that. They’ve got alerts about them - a bunch of pro-Norman Osborn whackjobs out to turn folks against the Avengers. He explains that they got hold of some cheap knock-offs of the Cobalt Man armor and had been raising hell ever since. The ring-leader said they were watching this place, hoping to catch one of them there so they could ‘make a statement.’
He calls them dirtbags. None of them are even from Stamford. No one there would do this kind of thing. Robbie replies that he’s sorry about what happened and they’ll pay for the repairs of course. He tells Robbie that he lost a lot of friends in Stamford and spent a long time blaming him. But, he adds, he was a cop in New York for twenty years and knows how a bust can go wrong. When someone gets shot, he blames the guy with the gun. He admits he wasn’t sold on the whole reality show thing, but they saved Washington from the invasion and what they’re doing with these kids… he can tell he wants to make it all right. What he’s saying is, if he wants to take a minute, it’s all right with him. With the cop’s blessing, Robbie stands before the memorial and says a prayer.
(Infinite Avengers Mansion, later)
Speedball, Gant-Man and Justice have the kids gathered for an explanation. Robbie tells them that he wasn’t cutting himself in that way. His Penance powers are activated by pain. When they’re going into a situation where they might be needed, he’d charge them up beforehand. He adds that he’s trying to put being Penance and all that he became behind him, but the powers are useful in a fight. He admits that he was wrong to keep it a secret. He wanted people to think he’d moved on, but the truth is, he hasn’t. Hank reckons he can find a way to activate his abilities without him having to actually harm himself. Robbie adds that it was wrong of him to keep this secret and tells Veil that she did the right thing in telling Justice. But, he adds, she also shouldn’t spy on people. If she wants to know what kind of mood he’s in she can just ask, okay? “Okay,” replies Maddie, meekly.
Hank asks Hazmat if she has a minute. He has good news. He informs her that he’s just finished examining Leech and he shows no ill effects from having neutralized her powers, so they could make this a regular thing. Bi-weekly perhaps? “Pass,” she replies. “Excuse me,” says Hank, surprised. Jenny explains that she almost got killed today because her powers were dampened and she doesn’t want that to happen again. Hank tells her it was a bad idea to schedule it on a day when she was going into the field, but on an off day… Hazmat cuts him off and asks what an off day actually is. How do they know when a zombie cyborg alien is going to beam in and attack them?
She leans down and kisses Leech on the cheek and tells him no offense, and he’s her hero for trying to help her and hanging out with her all day, but she thinks she’ll stay combat ready. Hank guesses that makes sense, but isn’t there some other reason? Jenny puts her helmet back on and asks like what? When it’s permanent he can sign her up. She can quit all this and go home and things can be like they were. Until then, she’s not giving anyone the chance to hurt her.
(Hank Pym’s lab, later that night)
Veil, in her mist form, drifts into the lab through a ventilation duct. She gets it now. They forgave Speedball because of what he did, both before the disaster as a New Warrior and after, as Penance. The people of Stamford forgave him because he saved the capital and Justice forgave him because they’re friends; because he knew he was a good person. However, no one knows her, not well enough anyway. So, she’s going to have to do something.
She grabs the controls on a machine that Dr. Pym built for his wife, the Wasp. The Skrulls used some doomsday weapons on her and scattered her body into separate molecules, like her body will, someday. The machine was supposed to save her, but Hank hasn’t activated it because he thinks she wouldn’t want to come back if her mind wasn’t intact. Veil thinks that, maybe, that’s what she said when she was healthy but, as somebody who’s staring down the barrel of the same gun, she knows she’d take the chance to save herself. And she just did. They’re all going to forgive her now because she’s doing something none of them could.
With that, she activates the machine and it lights up a dazzling orange color. A human form begins to coalesce inside it. ‘I’m bringing the Wasp back to life!”