(The Briggs Building)
Jeremy Briggs has attacked Striker, leaving him on his knees and in a great deal of pain. Enchantress uses a containment spell to keep him there but she is genuinely shocked when she sees what has happened to his face. Briggs guesses he got a little carried away, but justifies it by saying Striker betrayed him.
Hazmat, on the warpath, enters the room and blasts them both. “You mean he said he said he’d help you, then used you?” she cries, adding that they’re right. People like that don’t deserve to live. Enchantress tells Briggs that she could zap her away if she gets a chance to focus, but Briggs reckons they should get out of there before she gives them cancer. They need to prioritize. The plan is still on, only it’s now moved up. They need to release Clean Slate as soon as possible. Enchantress puts up magical defenses as they flee, leaving Jenny alone with Striker.
She tells him that she doesn’t want to get too close to him, even with the forcefield. When she asks if he’s okay, Striker turns and looks up at her. His skin has burned away leaving him with marked lines reaching out from the centre of his face. “Do I look okay?” he cries. Veil and Mettle then arrive having found Jenny’s containment suit. They see Brandon and Veil is clearly shocked by his appearance, but he tells her he’s okay. He can fight. She adds that the containment suit is locked away, but if Striker could short the electronic lock then they could retrieve it. He replies that Enchantress’ magic bubble is finally dissipating so she can lead the way.
Mettle says he wishes he’d been there to see her spank that slimeball. Jenny asks him not to come any closer. He might want to leave the room, actually. Ken replies that he’s figured out what happened; why he didn’t change. His powers only manifested the first time he got hurt real bad. Norman Osborn spread it all over his body by cutting off his skin. Jenny thinks that’s good. It means he can stay normal and she can handle Briggs. “Nah,” he replies. “You’re gonna need me.” He walks towards her and she asks what the hell he’s doing. He keeps coming and she puts her arms up to try keep him away. She reminds him that he’s got a second chance. He can go live a normal life and be happy. Ken holds out his hand and tells her that that’s the plan.
Jenny reluctantly takes his hand and closes her eyes. “We had so little time,” she sighs. They kiss each other and Ken tells her she’s wrong. They have the rest of their lives. And, she was wrong about something else, too. They do get one last kiss. His skin then begins to peel away and it leaves him back as he was, a red, metallic Avenger. Meanwhile, Veil and Striker go grab the suit and return to find Ken in his previous state. Hazmat asks her to toss the suit over and Ken adds that they have some spoiled rich kid ass to kick.
(Coat of Arms’ mystic study)
The rest of the students are in battle with Coat of Arms, who defends herself well using her extra arms. Reptil and White Tiger try to grab their amulets off her, but she uses the objects against them, informing them that they don’t want them anymore. Reptil’s amulet turns into a dinosaur’s head and it snaps at him with its large teeth. White Tiger’s amulet glows green and knocks the wind from her with its mystical energy. Coat of Arms explains that they didn’t do right by the amulets. They didn’t give them what they wanted and now they’ve found someone who will. It’s like a relationship, she adds. It’s about compromise. She went through it with her coat. Does it influence her? Sure. She’s different to how she was when she found it. But, they are better together. That’s what magic is all about. It’s a two-way street and they are roadkill.
Reptil can’t believe his amulet attacked him. White Tiger too is shocked that her tiger amulets rejected her. Reptil figures they should run. They can’t win this. Lightspeed asks if they were even listening. She explains that Coat of Arms controls the amulets because she wants them more. If they want them they are going to have to fight for them. “We tried,” replies White Tiger, but Julie tells her she didn’t try hard enough. Ava asks her to look at Coat of Arms, currently fighting X-23 and Finesse. She’s an addict. She has all this magic and she wants more. She doesn’t want to be like that. She’s already going through withdrawal.
Reptil agrees. He says he’s already hearing that he’s some kind of ‘chosen one’ and that he has a destiny. He’s not sure he wants it. Besides, he and Ava have both lost control and gone feral… hurt people. She doesn’t know what that’s like. Julie accepts that, but what she does know is that it’s easy to go through life taking what comes your way, doing what other people expect you to. Going with the flow. They both talk about wanting to be in control of their lives. Well, guess what? “You’re not!” She clenches her fists passionately and says they won’t until they choose the path they take, knowing the advantages and sacrifices that go with it. Not until they own who they are.
Julie turns and picks up a small gas burning torch. She says that she is finally doing that with her life; being who she wants to be. It was a long time coming and she’s not giving it up without a fight. They don’t want their artifacts? Fine. Then they can make that choice and do what they have to do without them. But, she adds, “Do something.” She re-joins the fight and burns Coat of Arms’ hand, but she shrugs off the attack and stabs Julie in the left arm, telling that there’s nothing sadder than a washed-up super hero. She advises Julie that her best career move is to die.
Julie groans in pain and falls backwards into Reptil’s arms. She tells them that it hurts, but it’s not bad and now she has a dagger. “No,” replies White Tiger taking hold of the weapon. “I do.” She asks Reptil if they’re gonna let that poser steal their gimmicks. “Not without a fight,” he snarls. The pair of them attack with Reptil using the war cry ‘Avengers Academy Assemble!’ Coat of Arms, already fending off Finesse and X-23 loves the catchphrase but doesn’t appreciate the added attention of two more people to fight. She defends herself against White Tiger’s knife attack, but the she and Reptil grab their respective amulets and a burst of magical energy envelopes the room.
Ava finds herself in an empty white space with nothing but her and a strange, green tiger. Licking his paw, he tells her that he doesn’t know why she is there. He didn’t think they had anything left to talk about. Ava looks at the creature and asks, “You’re… the amulets?” He replies that he isn’t, but he is the power behind them. He asks why she is bothering him. Ava replies that she wants the power back. The tiger stands and walks around. He replies that he thinks she means his power, and as he recalls, she considered him a burden. A curse. Ava cries no! Only when she lost control. Only when…
The tiger turns to her and asks if she means only when he had a moment of freedom? Did she think he would bestow his power without a price? He asks her to leave. He now has a host who appreciates him. Ava informs him that he’s just a part of Coat of Arms’ collection; one of her many toys in her endless pockets. What does he want in order to return to her. What would it take? He replies that he would like just one day in each cycle of her moon to himself. The rest are hers. Ava says that is fine, but the tiger adds that it’s not enough. It asks why she wants her power. Ava replies that it’s to stop her enemies and save her friends. “Not enough,” replies the tiger. She says it’s because it hurts without them. The tiger replies that it’s an even worse excuse and also a lie. Ava snaps at him that it’s because it is her legacy! Because it’s hers. Because she is the White Tiger! The tiger leaps at her and replies, “Yes.”
Reptil has been taken to his own magical place by touching the amulet. He finds himself in a prehistoric land beside the sea. Standing there is a strange woman with long white hair and wearing a black fur over her body. She holds a wooden staff. “Chosen one,” he says. “You disappoint me.” Reptil looks around at the dinosaurs and replies that he’s been disappointing himself lately. He asks who she is. He’s seen her before in his visions. The woman replies that she is the Hag of the Pits. She created the amulet so that one day Reptil may one day save his world. But, she adds, a champion cannot be forced to be a champion. He must choose it.
Humberto gets the reference. Joseph Campbell, the Hero’s Journey. He asks if he can really boil down someone’s life to a neat little formula. The Hag slaps him across the face and tells him to stop talking. She offers him the power he once had but he should take it with full knowledge of the price in that he must one day fight for the creatures whose strength he possesses; with the knowledge that he may well die in so doing. Is that what he wants? “More than anything,” replies Humberto.
Coat of Arms lies on the floor, wondering what just happened. Standing over her are Reptil, who transforms into a Triceratops, and White Tiger, whose amulets dangle around her neck glowing proudly. Reptil reminds her that she said magic is a two-way street. Well… she’s about to get run over. Coat of Arms stands and readies her daggers, asking if they think that this changes anything. She has an endless supply of magic items and six arms to use them with. Do they think this makes a damn bit of difference? X-23 and White Tiger both leap towards her and slash her across the stomach with their own knives. Reptil then uses his massive head as a battering ram and puts her down for the count. “Yeah,” quips White Tiger. “I’d say it does.”
Hazmat, Mettle, Veil and Striker then appear. Jenny tells them it was easy to find them. They just followed the sound of the mayhem. Striker asks what’s happened. They were… cured? Julie sees his face and is shocked to see the marks that have burned across it. Striker tells her it’s an occupational hazard. He’ll give her the gory details later. For now, they have to stop Jeremy before he takes away every hero Earth’s got. Finesse holds up X-23 and says that first they must restore Laura’s powers. She will not survive much longer. Weakly and bravely, Laura replies that she’ll be fine. Reptil believes they should split up but Striker reckons it’s a bad idea. The antidote is under heavy security and it’ll take them all to reach it. Hazmat points out that Jeremy’s releasing Clean Slate now! “Then I guess we have a choice to make,” replies Striker.
Between them, Reptil (in his Triceratops form) and Mettle smash open a solid metal door. Julie points to a panel and asks Striker to hit it with an electromagnetic pulse. It should disable all remaining security measures. However, Julie sees a problem and so does Finesse. She points out that there is not nearly enough of the cure to counteract a worldwide spread of Clean Slate. Veil, holding Laura as she takes some of the antidote, reckons that Briggs obviously planned on doing a lot less re-powering than de-powering. Reptil adds that even if they can make more, most of the world’s heroes will be powerless for who knows how long. What if there’s an alien invasion, he asks, or some kind of cosmic crisis? The whole planet will be pretty much defenseless. X-23 gets a little renewed strength and says they will make sure that does not happen.
The team makes its way to the roof as Lightspeed figured out that that’s where Briggs would be. Sure enough they find him standing there with his arms folded. He tells them that he is in awe of their detective skills, but not so much of their timing. The weapon carrying Clean Slate is deployed with several rockets being fired skywards. “Clean Slate is already deployed,” he exclaims. “Welcome to the future.”