(Avengers Academy, today)
“Cut the crap. We know. We’ve known since day one.” Hazmat, flanked by all the full-time Academy students and Veil, squares up to Giant-Man and the rest of the faculty. She adds that they weren’t recruited because they were awesome. They were recruited because they’re the most screwed up and the most dangerous. They’re not the most likely to become Avengers. They’re the most likely to be the next Masters of Evil and they’ve all had enough of being lied to. So, they can either put them in jail or let them get on with their lives. Hank is kinda shocked. This isn’t how it was supposed to go.
It’s evening and Finesse is training against some robots, kicking ass as usual when she spots X-23 enter the room out of the corner of her eye. She turns quickly and hurls her Billy Club towards her. Laura instinctively catches the club between two extended claws. Finesse asks if they’re training or fighting. The charge at each other and Finesse blocks X-23’s attack. Laura tells Finesse that she used her to kill against her will. Finesse somersaults backwards and replies that Laura was unconscious. She’d been disarmed and Jeremy Briggs was going to kill them all. She realizes that being used that way is what the Facility did to her and she vowed it would never be done again. But… she didn’t have time to ask for permission. Laura says she had time afterwards but she let her think she’d done it by herself. She lied to her; manipulated her. “Just like they did.”
Finesse stands against the wall and tells her that, now she knows the truth, she has a choice. X-23 slashes her claws inches from her head and tears a strip from the wall. She snarls at Finesse and tells her that if she told their teachers what she did they would expel her. Finesse says she knows this. “I will not,” replies Laura. But, they are no longer friends and she should stay away from her. Once Laura leaves, Finesse takes it out on the remaining robots, decapitating and smashing her way through them all.
(New York City)
Striker is with Veil in a hotel room. He is wearing a suit and Maddie fastens up his tie. He asks her one more time… why are they there? She smiles and replies that it’s because this guy was inspired by his ‘It gets better’ video. Because he’s the only gay kid in his class and he asked him to his prom. Because if he stood him up he would be devastated. On behalf of all those who have ever been stood up, she would kill him slowly and painfully.
Striker checks his reflection in the mirror. Maddie reminds him that the paparazzi have been trying to get pictures of him and sooner or later they will. This way, it happens on his terms while he’s doing something nice. He can put the best possible spin on this and make himself impossible to snark about. His publicist says so. Hell, she adds, his mom says so. Brandon says that this guy Jonathan asked a hot famous person to his prom, and ended up with him. Maddie reckons they will ask him. If he doesn’t want to go through with it then Brandon’s off the hook. Fair enough? They head into the lounge and Maddie tells Jonathan that his date is ready. He stands and places a buttonhole in Brandon’s jacket. “Wow,” he grins. “I still can’t believe this is happening. You look amazing.” Brandon plays it cool and says he does too. “Let’s do this, huh?”
Hank is with Tigra, Mettle and Hazmat. He offers his apologies to both the students for not discovering the method Briggs used to cure them. He was working along those lines. Ken reckons it’s no surprise that he got there first. He doesn’t think Briggs worried too much about safety checks. Hazmat asks if he can do it again. Hank admits that he can’t. The antidote that restored their powers is part of their makeup now and would attack any similarly configured cure. In essence, they’re immunized against it. That doesn’t mean they can’t try other approaches of course and he’s exploring several other theories. Ken says that he means he’s not close so they should get used to being like they are for the time being. Tigra says that, for the time being, yes they should. Ken thanks them both. At least they know it can be done and that’s a huge step.
Hazmat says that they’re doing a live feed from Striker’s prom. He’s gonna be all ‘Did you see it?’ and if they didn’t he’ll sulk like a little girl. She tells Hank and Tigra that they appreciate everything they’ve done and will talk to them later. Once they’ve gone, Hank tells Tigra that they’ll tell them the rest tomorrow.
Mettle asks Hazmat if she’s okay. She removes her helmet and tells him that she is. She doesn’t like being stuck in the suit and never will, but in her room with its shielding, she’s not. And, she doesn’t have to be alone in there anymore. She removes her suit and strokes Ken’s cheek, asking how he’s doing after getting his skin back and losing it again. Ken replies that he realizes there are people worse off than them. He can feel like this. It took him a while to figure it out. It’s hard to explain but he can feel. It’s not the same as having skin but it’s something. There are people who don’t even get that. Rockslide from the X-Men is just stone. He doesn’t even have… He decides to leave it there and tells Jenny that he has her, and that’s more than okay with him.
Jenny whispers into his ear. “Stay with me tonight.” Ken steps back and asks if she’s sure. Is she really ready? She replies that she told him that what she had to work was about her, not him. It was about how she felt about her powers and her situation. She’s okay with them now and is ready… if he is. Ken picks her up and takes her to the bedroom.
Finesse walks around the campus, past Jenny’s room where the bedroom light glows. She sees a couple of streaks overhead and looks up to see Lightspeed and Karolina Dean playfully flying parallel with each other at speed. She sees them slow down, come together and kiss each other. Finesse continues down to the beach and overhears White Tiger and Reptil talking. Humberto says that he’s been working with Dr. Strange, trying to get more in touch with his gem. Ava says she’s also been working with Iron Fist in order to find out more about the Tiger God. She asks if she can take a look at it. Humberto lifts his shirt and she sees the amulet in his chest glowing orange. “Oh, wow,” she gasps. “It’s beautiful.” He tells her that she’s beautiful, before stuttering that he means her amulets. Their faces move closer but, before they can kiss, Finesse appears and Humberto asks if she was looking for them. Finesse turns away to leave them in peace and says no.
Feeling a little lonely, she heads to the lounge where she finds Quicksilver watching television. She asks what he’s doing. He replies that he’s watching Downton Abbey. He says his sister enjoys it but he finds it tedious. “You find everything tedious,” she replies. Pietro accepts that but asks her to join him. She squats on the couch and he notices a tear tricking down her cheek. He places a comforting arm on her shoulder and asks her to remember this. For some, this will be the best years of their lives. For her, it will only get better.
(New York City)
Jonathan is with Brandon. He tells Brandon that hearing someone close to his age come out and say, ‘It gets better’ was huge. Coming here tonight, he doesn’t know how thank him. Brandon says he doesn’t have to. He needed this. He hasn’t done a lot of ‘normal’ people things. Jonathan says he’ll tell him a secret. Most normal people things suck. Brandon replies that he can think of one or two that don’t. With that the two boys kiss. They are interrupted when Brandon’s phone rings. On the other end is his mother who asks him to turn to the side. He’s blocking the camera. “The what?” asks Brandon. “Kiss him again,” says his mom. “This is great.” Brandon zaps the phone and Jonathan asks if he has to go. Brandon reckons they should have a dance. The rest of the world and all its craziness can wait until tomorrow.
Hank Pym explains that, in their time at the academy, they’ve been through things that he could never have handled at their age. They’ve done the teachers proud and they feel that they should be recognized. He is pleased to announce that as of now they are all Avengers Third Grade. Reptil is surprised and asks what they did wrong. Hank assures them that it’s not a demotion. They should think of it as a sophomore year. They’ll ascend to second grade and then full Avengers. Clint tells him it was confusing to number backwards. They should have gone with levels. Level one. Level two. Everybody gets video games.
Hank hands over Avengers communicators to the students and informs them that they’ve all been awarded heightened security clearance. And, adds Hawkeye, they’ll start doing ride-alongs; one-on-one missions with senior Avengers. It’ll be like internships only without having to get coffee and donuts. Tigra adds that what the boys are trying to say is that they’ve done great - better than expected. She hopes they are as proud of themselves as they are of them.
She looks at their expressions and says that this was supposed to be good news. Hazmat asks her to cut the crap. They didn’t recruit them because they were awesome. They recruited them because they’re the most screwed up and dangerous. They’re not likely to be the next Avengers. They’re more likely to be the next Masters of Evil. And, she adds, they’re fed up with being lied to, so they can put them in jail or let them get on with the rest of their lives. White Tiger is surprised. She didn’t know any of this. Julie is also shocked. She’s been a hero for years and has more experience than some of the Avengers.
Hank assures them that this isn’t how it was supposed to go and asks them all to listen to him. He says he doesn’t know how they found that out and he’s sorry that it was true, but it’s not true anymore. Tigra tells them that they had concerns, not because of who they are but because of what was done to them. She admits that they should probably have been honest from the start. Pietro adds that he did want to from the start. Tigra points out that they didn’t want them seeing themselves as damaged goods. Clint chips in and tells them that they are vets now. They’ve been through wars and proved themselves a dozen times. If they didn’t believe in them they wouldn’t be getting security clearances and they wouldn’t be at the academy. He was the first ‘at-risk’ recruit so they can take it from him that they’re way past being on probation. “You’re the Avengers of tomorrow. End of story.”
Hank tells them that’s not all. They’ve done more than justify their faith in them. They’ve educated them. Jocasta informs them that the program Jeremy Briggs began, to match superhumans with humanitarian causes they can help with, was flawed because he was flawed. But, she believed then and still does today that it was good idea. A better idea, perhaps than any this school is teaching them. Hank tells them that they want them to continue it as part of the Avengers Network of Philanthropic Foundations. Tigra adds that they want them to expand it. Young people throughout the world have ideas about how to help but they lack the resources. They will provide those resources and Jocasta will be their faculty advisor.
Reptil asks if Jocasta is in charge. She replies that he is. Her function is to help. The Foundation is his; his way to make his mark upon the world and to make a difference in whatever way he sees fit. To show young people worldwide what they have proven in their time at Avengers Academy. They may be young, she adds, and may face challenges but they can overcome them and can control their own destiny. They can do something good with their lives. Hank says that it’s the same lesson the students taught them.
Mettle turns to Finesse and says he still thinks she’d make a really hot super villain. Maybe put a boob window in the suit and get some stiletto heels. Finesse quips that she’s going to punch him. Lightspeed thanks the Avengers. This is exactly what she wanted to do. She bets they can coordinate with her brother’s group the Future Foundation. Tigra notices that Laura seems preoccupied and asks how she feels about this. Laura reckons it would be nice to help people and is looking forward to it. Finesse asks Quicksilver if her security clearance is effective now. He says it is and asks why. “As you said,” she replies, “I am only going to get better.” She makes her way to a computer and logs on, accessing the secure data, wishing to begin immediately.
Tigra tells Hank that it took some explaining but it looks to her like this is going to work out. Hank reckons they just might have a shot. Veil approaches them and informs them that with her powers gone she wasn’t sure what to do. The foundation seems perfect. Hank apologizes and says he should have spoken to her first. He explains that they’d love to have her at the foundation as staff, but to do that she needs a high school diploma and has to be of legal age. The others will be there as students but, without her abilities, it’s too dangerous for her to remain at the academy. He asks her not to worry, though. She can take A G.E.D course and obtain her equivalency degree. Before she knows it she’ll be eighteen.
Veil face drops but she says it’s okay. This just reinforces what she was already thinking. She is normal again and that’s what she wanted. So, she needs to start acting like a normal person. She knows what she has to do.
Madeline is at school and walking past the lockers. She wonders what she is doing. Was it all for nothing? she wonders. Everything that’s happened and everywhere she’s been. All the things she’s done and she’s back in high school. It’s a different town and she has a new name, but nothing’s changed. As she looks up a blond girl spills coffee down her top and says, “Whoops.” Maddie drops her books in surprise and the girl tosses a five dollar note to the floor. “Here’s five dollars. That should cover a new outfit where you shop.” She adds that if Maddie waits ‘til there’s a sale at the Salvation Army thrift store she can get two. She then turns and tells her friends that it looks like she’s found the entertainment for the year.
Maddie sees red. She slams the girl into a locker and twists her arm behind her back. She warns her to shut up. She isn’t hurting anyone, but if she moves her arm a few inches she’ll dislocate it and that will hurt like hell. She leans in close and tells the ‘princess’ to listen. If she ever sees her look so much as sideways at her or mess with anyone in this school, she’ll make her wish she’d never been born. The girl cries for her to let go. Her friend, a well-built jock, reaches for Maddie. “A fighter, huh! This is gonna be fun.” Maddie instinctively flicks her elbow up and smacks him in the jaw. “Damn right,” she replies as she knees him in the groin. “But not for you.” She then turn and continues along the corridor. ‘Maybe I did learn something,’ she smiles.