(The Raft penitentiary for superhuman criminals, off the coast of Manhattan)
Explosions rock the high security prison after a blast from space cracks the building in half. Inmates pour out like locusts and scatter into the winds. This means there are now hundreds of superhuman criminals at large in the area.
(Infinite Avengers Mansion, home of Avengers Academy)
Giant-Man speaks with Steve Rogers, whose face appears on a monitor. Steve Rogers explains that six more of the projectiles have struck around the world. Most of the Avengers have been deployed to the scenes, which leaves them undermanned. The Thunderbolts and others are responding but there are too many hostiles slipping through. He knows that Hank is familiar with the prison and its inmates. Hank asks him to say no more. He’ll scramble the faculty. He tells Steve that he’s picking up reports of Paris being turned to stone and earthquakes in Brazil. “This is serious isn’t it?”
Steve replies that Hank’s been an Avenger longer than he has. He knows it is. They’re stretched thin. He asks, if it becomes necessary, whether his students are up to it. Hank tells him he’s talking about war. These are kids of sixteen and seventeen. Steve replies that so was Bucky during WWII and he wasn’t much older. They’ve been sending eighteen year-old’s into battle throughout history. Hank closes his eyes and replies, hesitantly, “They’re ready. God help me.”
Hank gathers the other teachers (Tigra, Justice, Quicksilver and Jocasta) and explains the situation. He asks Jocasta where Speedball is. She informs him that he was near New York. Maybe he’s already on the scene? Hank says they don’t have time to wait for him. He tells Quicksilver and Justice that they are going to Long Island. He needs Jocasta in the mansion coordinating troop movements as others might need their dimensional doors. He asks Tigra to stay with the students. “What?” she gasps. She takes him to one side and tells him that she’d never have started seeing him if she knew he would become all macho and protective. Hank assures her that, if he was being protective, he’d find a nicer way to say this. Her powers are the least useful for containing multiple escapees. And, he needs her to stay.
He asks if she remembers when he told the kids that there’d come a time when they’d have to go to war. Well, if things keep up the way they have, then this is it. She will have to look after them if worst comes to worst. Tigra understands and assures him that she’ll handle things there. He can focus on his mission. Hank turns and asks Jocasta to open a door to Long Island in the vicinity of Laguardia Airport. He asks her to stay in touch. “Let’s be careful out there,” he adds, “And Avengers Assemble!”
The Avengers emerge in Long Island straight into a battle. Hank grabs Flying Tiger, Quicksilver uses his super speed to punch out a couple more escapees as well as Quicksand whilst Justice uses a telekinetic forcefield to capture several more. Gorilla Man tries to break the field but it’s far too strong for him.
(Avengers Academy training room)
The team is in combat with a group of training robots with Striker bemoaning the fact that they never get to go on the good missions. Mettle tells him to shut up and asks Reptil if Dr. Pym looked scared to him. As Reptil kicks one of the robots, he replies that he won’t be scared over a few escaped super villains. They call that ‘Thursday.’ Why would he be scared? Finesse informs them that he was trying to hide it but he was terrified. So was Tigra, she adds, once he spoke to her about going to war and sending them to their deaths. “Deaths?” asks Striker. Mettle grabs a robot arm and realizes she must have read their lips.
At that moment, Tigra rushes in and informs them that the capital of the United States is under attack. Veil wonders if they’re pulling Dr. Pym and the others out of New York. Tigra replies that they can’t. The Raft escapees would kill thousands. So… they’re going in. Tigra looks at her students. They look so young. Striker asks what they’re up against. Tigra explains that it’s the Red Skull’s daughter, Sin. She’s got some kind of hammer like Thor’s and it’s put her in his power league. And, there’s also a battalion of robots… mechs… whatever. She thinks about it a moment. They’re going in blind against gods and mass murderers.
She adds that Commander Rogers has Avengers on the ground and they are engaging the enemy. Their job is civilian evacuation. “Got it?” They should only fight to defend themselves or bystanders. Hazmat replies that she zaps things with radiation. How is she supposed to help evacuate anyone? Tigra hasn’t got time for these kinds of questions. She tries not to show how scared she is as Jocasta activates the dimensional doors. She tells them that their identicard communicators will lead them to them. She asks them to just get people somewhere safe. She presses a button next to the door and asks the team to get ready. The door will take them to the scene. All their training has been for this moment. Remember it and they will be fine. She knows it’s a lie, but it’s all she’s got. The door opens and the team bravely charges through it with Reptil taking lead. “Go! Go! Go!” cries Tigra.
When they arrive instantly in Washington D. C., they see a site of devastation. A giant robot with a Nazi symbol stands in the middle of the street whilst another flies overhead blasting using multiple weapons. Civilians run for their lives. ‘Oh, Hank,’ thinks Tigra. ‘What have we done?’
Justice contains Quicksand in a telekinetic bubble whilst Dragonfly tries to tackle Giant-Man, who has a couple of prisoners in his hand. Jocasta contacts Hank but he informs her that he’s in the middle of something. But, if Steve needs them elsewhere, they’ll be done shortly. Jocasta replies that it’s not that. She just wanted to tell him that the students have been deployed. Hank’s eyes widen with concern upon hearing the news. He splats Flying Tiger and Dragonfly against a wall and replies, “Tell them I’m coming.”
Elsewhere, Tigra sees a group of police officers pinned down by gunfire. One of them is out in the open and a sitting target. She instinctively leaps at him in order to protect him and hopes she’s in time to save him. He’s so young… still a kid.
Tigra recalls how she and her newlywed husband were together. They were happily thinking about the rest of their lives. She wonders who that girl would have grown up to be. Not that it matters, of course. Her husband was gunned down and killed. Her younger self wouldn’t even recognize her now. The person she could have been died that day. She then changes that. She was murdered!
Tigra runs with the officer and rushes him to the nearest hospital via the dimensional doors whilst her students protect a group of civilians faced with a murderous robot. Mettle uses his body to deflect gunfire as Striker zaps it with his electric powers. Tigra finds a doctor and explains that he was shot during the attack in D.C. The doctor is surprised as he is in Cleveland. She tells him that she could explain or he could save these people’s lives. She asks him not to worry. They won’t overwhelm him. Their teleportation doors shifts which hospital it opens to every minute. “Now go!” she orders.
Meanwhile, Hazmat unleashes her radiation powers on one of the Nazi robots though it stands up to her blasts. As it smashes Mettle away, Tigra asks Striker to back up Hazmat and add his powers to hers. He hesitates, stating that he isn’t bullet-proof. Tigra was afraid of this. Striker ‘died’ fighting Korvac. It wasn’t his actual body, but he experienced it and now he’s terrified. She’s been there before and if he doesn’t face it fast, it’ll paralyze him and get him killed for real. She holds him firmly and asks him to remember what they’ve been practicing - the electromagnetic force field. Striker remembers that it repels bullets just as they are shot at by one of the robots. Striker erects the forcefield just in time.
Striker realizes that it worked. “It worked!” he exclaims. Tigra looks at his reaction. She knows that he’s scared to death but he’s trying so hard. After everything that’s happened to him, to all of them before they found them, and all the reasons they have to be angry and bitter and full of hate… they aren’t. They’ve been so concerned that they were damaged beyond repair, by their powers, by Norman Osborn… by life. They were so worried that they would become criminals that they should be ashamed of themselves. What they’re doing right now isn’t part of their training. It’s who these kids are. If anything breaks their spirit it’ll be them.
“I can do this!” exclaims Striker as he combines his powers with Hazmat’s to blast one of the enemy robots. Mettle tells Striker that was awesome. Unfortunately, another flying robot swoops in and attacks, scattering the civilians all over the place as it shoots to kill. Mettle grabs a telegraph pole and yanks it out of its concrete base. He hurls it at the robot and it hits it square in the face, ripping its head off. However, inside he sees two soldiers, one of them dead and his face drops. “Tigra…” he exclaims. “I killed him.” His teammates are equally shocked at these turn of events.
Tigra assures him that he had to. He was shooting people. Mettle replies that the gunner was. He was just the pilot. She asks him to listen, trying to calm him down. She explains that they are murderers. They chose to slaughter defenseless people who just wanted to get to work and walk their dogs. He had to kill a bad guy to save lives. The fact is, she adds, that what bothers him is what makes him different from them. She knows he is a good person and how hard this is for him, but she needs to know that he can do it again if needs must. “I… I can,” he replies, though his heart isn’t in it at the moment. Tigra thanks him. She then says she hears gunfire from the south and asks him to check it out. As he departs, tears flow from Tigra’s eyes and she damns Hank for asking her to do this and herself for doing it. And damn this world for not giving them a choice.
As several inmates are bundled into police trucks, Hank Pym contacts Steve Rogers. He informs him that the situation is under control and he’s going to Washington to relieve his kids. Maria Hill replies in Rogers’ place and informs him that Commander Rogers has left her in charge and she’s afraid she can’t let him do that. Hank says he’d like to see her try stop him. He asks Jocasta to open a door to the capital. Maria asks him to wait. She can’t force him, but he should look at his viewscreens. His students are doing fine. Meanwhile, the Absorbing Man and Titania are assaulting Dubai. They have boots on the ground in D.C. but they have nothing in Dubai. Hank looks at the Absorbing Man on screen and once again closes his eyes, angry at the decision he faces. She pleads with him, reminding him that he defeated the Absorbing Man not long ago and those people are defenseless.
She shows him footage of his students and he sees Reptil in a Triceratops form in battle. She explains that this is what his students signed up for… what they’ve been training for. Young people go through this every day in Afghanistan and they don’t have powers. Hank knows the argument is lost. “Ms. Hill… Shut Up.” He asks Jocasta to open a door to Dubai. They’ll deal with that as quickly as possible and then they’re relieving their students.
Maria informs him that the Absorbing Man is different to last time they fought. He’s obtained a hammer like Sin’s… like Thor’s. He absorbs the properties of anything he touches and should have been on the level of Dr. Doom. It was only his mind that held him back. That is no longer the case. They’re not exactly sure what’s going on with these ‘hammer wielders’ but they think there’s someone else in there, in their minds. She adds that Titania is possessed as well and this is the only place on Earth where two of these beings are working together. As Justice and Quicksilver head through the dimensional door, Pym says that he understands, but she should understand this. “Nothing will stop me from reaching my students.”
(Washington D. C.)
Finesse uses her agility to avoid flying bullets. Hazmat pours on the power against the giant robots and Reptil uses his wings to fly civilians to safety. Veil creates a smokescreen so she can move civilians out of the way and Striker uses the forcefield to protect himself and others. Mettle uses his prodigious strength to use mangled vehicles as weapons.
Tigra watches them in action. This is what they’ve been training for and why Avengers Academy exists. If she didn’t believe they represented her best option she wouldn’t have them here, but the
combination of their powers and the traumas in their past means a normal life is not a normal option for any of them. Yes, they chose this path, but they did not understand what it meant because no one could understand who hasn’t been there. The teachers have been there and it’s their job to prepare them for moments like this, as best as you can prepare anyone. It’s their job to see they survive both the combat, and what comes after.
Hank arrives and grows to giant-size. Talking to himself, he says he doesn’t care how powerful the Absorbing Man’s become or who he has with him. He’s gonna put him down fast. “I’m going to put him down… oh…” He peers over the top of a building and sees Crusher Creel standing the same size as him. “Pym!” he cries, just before he smashes Hank in the face with his hammer.
‘In war, there are no wounded soldiers - Jose Narosky’