(Avengers Academy campus)
Hybrid has taken control of several students and a couple of senior Avengers. Giant-Man and Hawkeye are the only teachers left to fight, but there are several unaffected students at hand to help them in battle. Hybrid, orchestrating events, tells them he is a higher being to whom they are nothing but food! Giant-Man, grappling with Reptil in his T-Rex form, asks his team not to hurt the others as they are being mind-controlled. “Easy for you to say,” replies Mettle as he fends off X-23’s claws. He somehow finds time to joke, telling Hazmat that he can see why she’s jealous. X-23 is all over him. “Not funny” she replies. Mettle asks her to relax. She can’t hurt…
He stops talking as two of Laura’s claws sink into his shoulder with a ‘chnk.’ Hazmat responds by blasting X-23 with a massive dose of radiation. Giant-Man asks her to be careful, as Laura’s healing factor isn’t as strong as Wolverine’s. Mettle grabs X-23 and pins her arms to her side and turns to Hazmat, asking if she knew she’d survive that. Jenny replies yes, but she’d have done it anyway. Hawkeye tells Hank that his war of the colossal beasts is killing his aim. Can’t he shrink Reptil down a bit? Hank tells him he’s trying but he’s using his Pym Particles to grow. Humberto’s fighting him. He tries to communicate with Reptil, telling him that he knows his conscious mind is active but suppressed. He has to break free.
Reptil wishes he could, but Hybrid’s too strong for him. He can think a little, probably because his consciousness is only inhabiting his younger body. Unfortunately, it’s like trying to run in a dream. It’s a huge effort just to move and even if he could fight back, nothing can hurt Hybrid. He then considers something else. The White Tiger’s amulets don’t play well with Hybrid. He focuses as he’s only going to get one shot at this. He swipes her hard from behind and her amulets light up bright emerald.
The White Tiger picks herself up and mumbles, “F-Free.” Hybrid tells her it’ll only be for a moment. No human mind can resist him. Reptil, now back in his human form, looks up and points behind Hybrid. “Okay,” he says, “What about that?” Hybrid turns to see the Sentinel looming over him. Before he can respond, the Sentinel blasts him. Juston Seyfert, sitting at the controls, tells Reptil that he was right all along. It’s just now come back to him that this slimy monster messed with his head. “Let’s show him how it feels!” Unfortunately, Hybrid uses his powers to capture the Sentinel in a telekinetic grip and it begins to dismantle. He brings Juston out of his cockpit and gloats that he is magic and science and genetics. “I am the Apex Predator!”
Hybrid then grabs Mettle by the throat and claims dominion over them all. Reptil intercepts Finesse before she can attack Hybrid, pointing out that he just took Juston down with a thought. He’ll kill her. He tells her that he knows this sounds crazy, but he’s switched minds with his himself from the future, a future where… where what they have means everything to him. He came back to save all that. He knows it sounds impossible to believe. Finesse replies that she does believe him. His mannerisms and speech patterns are different and what he’s told her confirms her observations. However, this changes nothing. She will not stand by while their friends die. She wouldn’t like herself if she did that. She tells him that, if he still cares for her after she let them be murdered, his future is not one she’d like to see.
Meanwhile, Hazmat unleashes her radiation blasts at Hybrid but he enjoys her taste. It’s like cosmic storms and her life force will feed him for months. He feels it’s obliging of their mentors to assemble them like lambs to the slaughter and then invite the wolf among them. Reptil knows that they can’t stop him. Hybrid’s one of the most powerful telekinetics on Earth and a sorcerer on top of it. They’re all going to die. There is only one chance, even if it means throwing the history he remembers out of the window.
He heads to a control panel and tells ‘someone’ that he needs help so he’s patching them into the compound security cameras. “Reptil?” they reply. “How did you know I was…” Reptil says there’s no time to explain. They must make their decision and act on it. He has another call to make. He then patches himself in to the future and contacts the older version of Striker.
Striker informs him that his timeline is in flux so they’re going to have to abort. They’re bringing him back. Reptil replies that he can still make this work. Humberto’s younger version in his older version’s body is still in the capsule and he asks what’s going on. His daughter hit’s a switch and asks him to come out of there. He’s scaring her. She removes his visor and asks him why he was in there. Confused, he asks who she is. “Stop it,” she screams. “Don’t say that daddy.” Humberto’s face lights up. “Daddy…?” She folds her arms in a huff and tells him that mommy’s the one who doesn’t remember her. He always does. He looks up and sees Finesse. Hazmat quips that this just got a lot more complicated.
Reptil stands up and says he knows them. They are them from the future. He then twigs that he must be in the future, too. He looks at Veil and says she quit. Does she come back? And what about the little girl? That means he and Finesse… Veil replies that there’s no time for any of this. She explains that they brought him there for a reason, an important reason. She just can’t tell him what it is. Reptil says he knows. They studied time paradoxes last semester. Veil is pleased that he is familiar with the problem. She explains that his adult self is back in his younger body and things are bad. To help him, they need him to cooperate and do what they say without question.
Reptil semi-transforms into a stegosaurus and asks how he can trust them. They kidnapped him! He knows for a fact that in some of their futures they are evil. How can he be sure this isn’t one of them? Veil backs away a little but replies that they’re trying to save all their lives, their timeline… their world. If this doesn’t work, she adds, his daughter will never be born. She knows he has no reason to trust them, but he’s asking him to do it anyway. He looks down at his innocent daughter and has little choice. “What do you need me to do?”
Striker and Veil fiddle with some equipment whilst Finesse stands, arms folded. Striker hugs his daughter and looks across at Finesse who asks him to stop staring at her. Humberto apologizes, but he can’t believe that they got together. She replies that they are divorced and he asks her why. She tells him she didn’t want kids. She was afraid. She knew she would develop memory problems like her father. She didn’t want to subject a child to that but he wanted one so badly, he convinced her that everything would be okay. It wasn’t. She grows so fast and her short-term memory is going. “What kind of mother forgets her own daughter?” she asks. The pain in her eyes when she realizes that is like a knife in her heart. She can’t imagine what it’s like for her daughter. Humberto hugs his daughter tight and stutters, “I… I’m sorry.”
Finesse asks him not to be. It wasn’t him. She finds that seeing him like this, all innocent. It brings back memories of what he was and for that she is grateful. She kisses him. He asks if he’s really that different when he grows up. She replies that they all are. It’s not some big sudden thing. It’s a lifetime of choices, mistakes and compromises… failures to act. They are things that cannot be taken back or undone. Humberto doesn’t believe that. He reckons that there are always choices, maybe not the ones you want or wish they’d made, but you have them. Deciding to stay mad and not even trying to fix things - that’s a choice too. He gets that there are reasons it wouldn’t work, like if he’s abusive or a drug addict or a serial killer, but that’s not what he’s hearing. He mentions that just now she remembered what it was like when they were young. He’s seeing it, too. Maybe when he gets back the two of them could maybe hold on to that. Finesse’s face light up and she asks if he really thinks that. Before he answers, Veil tells him they are ready.
Giant-Man attempts to shrink Hybrid using his Pym particles but the alien is wise to that. He creates a force-field and says he has no such limitations. He shrinks Pym instead and tells him he was kind to his human guise. Fatherly, even. It will amuse him to kill him as he did his own father. Reptil swings his tail and smacks Hybrid in the back, knocking him off balance. He then grabs him in his massive teeth. “No more killing,” he states. “From you, anyway.” Hybrid attempts to control Reptil’s mind but discovers two personas in one body: present and future. It matters not to him. He will only have to try harder. He assaults Reptil and almost renders him unconscious. He transforms into his human form and White Tiger rushes to his aid. Humberto looks up at her through half-closed eyes. He tells her he’s sorry for what he did to her. He thought he was protecting what is important, but she and Jeannie reminded him what really is… who he used to be. His voice trails off as he closes his eyes. Lightspeed asks if he’s dead, but Finesse replies that he’s breathing, just non-responsive. His mind is broken, because of him!
She turns to Hybrid as Striker unleashes a lightning bolt in his face. White Tiger wants to attack but Giant-Man steps in and points out that they’re not going to beat him head on. They have to fight smart. He explains that he found some data on Hybrid in the X-Men’s databanks. In the past, he was defeated by a weapon wielded by one of the Spaceknights. When Julie asks how they find him, Hank replies that they won’t, as he’s dead. His weapon disintegrated Hybrid at the atomic level and sent him to Limbo. He needs to figure out a way to reproduce that. He asks White Tiger to keep him occupied as her amulets appear to be one of the few things that hurt him. Without hesitation, she rushes off to battle. Hank asks Julie Power to grab Quicksilver and ask him to get the components on his databank from his dimensional door technology. He’ll need her help with something else.
As Mettle punches Hybrid and White Tiger leaps on him, Hank reckons Hybrid made a mistake by just shutting down his powers. He should have shut down his mind. He turns to Reptil and promises he’ll do everything possible to bring him back. As he speaks, however, Reptil wakes up and exclaims that he’s home.
Reptil collapses much to his daughter’s horror. She clutches his hand but Veil says he’s comatose. She’s sorry. She asks Finesse to being Reptil to the med-bay while she takes Maria. Finesse says no. She’ll take her. She’s her daughter after all and he did this for them.
With Hawkeye and Lyra joining in keeping Hybrid busy, Quicksilver and Lightspeed build a giant portal. Finesse manipulates the wiring in the Sentinel’s hand and Hank says they need Hybrid in position. Hybrid throws his opponents off him and says their strategies are as ridiculous as they are transparent. Did they really think he would walk into their trap like a sheep? However, he suddenly finds himself unable to move. He demands to know what they’ve done to him. He then sees the Sentinel’s hand begin to glow and then looks behind him at the portal. It’s now activated and he can see Limbo through it. “No,” he cries, “Not Limbo. I’ll come back. I’ll come back and make you suffers as you’ve never…” The Sentinel fires, thrusting Hybrid into the portal, where his body disintegrates.
As the portal crashes, closing the link to Limbo, Hank asks Juston how that happened. Juston doesn’t know. Until they get its head back on, that shouldn’t have been possible. A voice from behind asks them to think a moment. It should be obvious. Hank turns around. “Jocasta!” he cries. “But… you’re… you died.” She replies that she is a machine intelligence. She cannot die as he understands it. But, she required him to think she had, otherwise she could not have done what was necessary. He would have interfered. He asks where the hell she’s been. Veil then appears and says she’s been with her. Striker says he knew it. She took over Hybrid’s body and beat him at his own pervy game. How did she know? Veil replies that Reptil called them, though she doesn’t know how he knew Jocasta was alive. Reptil admits that it’s kind of a long story.
Hank seems annoyed. He tells Jocasta that they’ve spent weeks thinking she was dead. The students were afraid there was a killer among them. Jocasta apologizes for the deception but it was necessary, as was her sudden reappearance. It’s far sooner than she’d have preferred. But, he brought a predator among the children and gave Hybrid an irresistible target. He failed to protect them and on the contrary, endangered them. This incident graphically proves what the data she collected showed as indisputable fact. Avengers Academy was a mistake and they are there to shut it down.