Memory cannot precede being, cannot reach back into the dark oblivion before the spark of life ignites. Yet, this is memory, this image of an Earth, aborning swollen, infant moon crouching above clouds of poison gas. Seen without eyes: the flash of lightning boiling the turbulent air. Heard without ears: the crack of thunder rolling over a broken landscape.
Beneath the rolling roof of sky, a slow and sullen ooze gurgles and flows around the jagged coast-lines of embryonic continents. In a few billion years, these land masses will come to bear strange names – Gondwanaland, Laurasia – eons yet, before the first voice will vibrate on the air of this virgin world.
But in swirling tide pools, the first hesitant steps are being taken on the long road to the creation of the upright beast who will give all this a name. In waters stirred by volcanic heat, jolted by the lightning’s pulse…the building blocks of life are forming.
And after half a billion years – the merest blink of geological time – something like cell drifts in the primordial darkness. It does not think…it does not feel, save in the most rudimentary fashion…it does not know…but it lives. And it divides….
For a moment there are two entities adrift in the microscopic seascape, the whole scene smaller than the point of a pin. To the most minute inspection they would be nearly identical. The clumps of molecules within them – the pattern upon which complex genetic forms will grow – are the same. But there is a difference. As the eddies and currents in the waters around them begin to draw the siblings apart that difference makes itself apparent. One organism seizes the other, draws it to itself…pierces…penetrates…within an instant, the drama is done.
Where once there were two, there is one once more. But that one is very different from either of the first. A modification has been added to the matrix of this primal ancestor. And when it splits again, the modification is present in both parts.
It is still present, coiled within the heart of every living cell, millions of years later when the diversity of life has begun to manifest itself.
Meanwhile, five hundred million years later. The powerful mutant Avenger Wanda Maximoff a.k.a. the Scarlet Witch is being held prisoner. ‘Report, Ms. Klein!’ exclaims Wanda’s captor, the mysterious Jeremiah Random as he enters the laboratory. Ms. Klein replies that all is proceeding exactly on schedule, and informs Random that they chose well in the Scarlet Witch, for she is a classic mutant type, and the present upheaval in her emotional life has left her physically vulnerable, open to complete assimilation.
Jeremiah Random asks how the memory reconstruction is proceeding, to which Ms. Klein replies that they have brought the Scarlet Witch up through the first hundred million years of their existence, so at the present rate she should be contemporaneous with all of them within seventy-two hours. Random addresses a red-haired man as Murchison and asks about the physical problems. Murchison replies ‘So far, so good, sir’, and informs him that they are matching physical assimilation to the memory reconstruction and that he believes they will have beaten the genetic lockout by the time she is fully reprogrammed.
Meanwhile, ‘Absolom, Texas, dead ahead!’ exclaims Jennifer Walters a.k.a. the She-Hulk of the East Coast branch of the Avengers as she can Steve “Captain America” Rogers streak across the sky in a Quinjet. Captain America asks She-Hulk to contact the civilian traffic control as the signal they monitored from the Quinjet emergency alert centered somewhere outside authorized flight plans. She-Hulk contacts Dallas-Fort Worth and announces that Avengers Quinjet AV297 is requesting clearance for emergency landing in their area.
The traffic control officer asks the Avengers if they require assistance and if he should contact the police or military authorities. ‘Negative, Dallas’ Captain America replies, introducing himself before informing the officer that they are here on Avengers priority business, adding that they will notify the proper authorities if necessary. With that, Captain America lands the Quinjet on the Saunders College campus.
Inside the laboratory, Murchison informs Jeremiah Random that another Quinjet is making an approach over the college grounds. Random remarks that this is unanticipated, for he understood that the Scarlet Witch had severed her relations with the Avengers before coming here. Ms. Klein asks if they should continue with the assimilation process, to which Random replies ‘Yes’ and declares that he will investigate the new arrivals.
Exiting the Quinjet, the She-Hulk remarks that this is quite a spread and that it reminds her of California. Cap exclaims that the emergency signal is very close but that he cannot seem to get a fix on it. Jeremiah Random stands on the stairs before the Avengers, and greeting them by name he asks ‘To what do we owe the honor of this visit?’ Cap replies ‘No honor’ before informing Random that they are here on official Avengers business – specifically they are looking for one of their missing aircraft, as they believe it may have gone down in this vicinity.
‘Gone down…you mean…crashed?’ Jeremiah Random asks, adding that it is most distressing and that he hopes no harm has befallen the Scarlet Witch since she left the Vision here with them. ‘Wanda was here? And the Vision is still here?’ Captain America asks. Jeremiah Random replies ‘Yes’ and informs the new arrivals that he contacted the Scarlet Witch at their West Coast headquarters to offer her the use of their extensive robotics department in an attempt to more fully restore her husband, before offering to take the Avengers to the Vision.
Meanwhile – if such a word has meaning across the vastness of the universe – the former Avenger Starfox, otherwise known as Eros of Titan, one of the Eternals, flies through the stars, thinking that it cannot be true, for he had totally given up his quest for her when the Avengers told him she had been lost in time – until that mercenary on Sirus IV claimed to have seen her pirate ship in this vicinity, so he just had to check it out for himself. The woman Starfox seeks…Nebula, granddaughter of his evil brother, Thanos!
Flying through some ruins, Starfox thinks that this place is as old as anything in Eternal memory – perhaps as old as the universe itself! Starfox wonders what brings his grand-niece here, for there can be nothing on this rock to interest a plunderer such as she. Suddenly, Starfox hears some soft voices up ahead. ‘Yes, Gunthar, you have served your mistress well!’
Starfox follows the voices and sees Nebula and her servant standing before a massive stone with markings on it. Nebula declares that the formula is here, the ancient legends were true, and orders Gunthar to cut the stones into tablets and transport them back to the ship. Nebula declares that they will now only need a source of sufficient energy – then she will be more powerful than her grandfather ever was! Starfox looks extremely worried.
Back on Earth, in the far more mundane surroundings of a shelter for the homeless in Mile-High Denver, though what is about to happen here is of no less significance to the lives of the Avengers than what is transpiring in space. ‘How is she today?’ a doctor asks one of the shelter volunteers, referring to one of the residents. The handsome blond man replies that she isn’t much improved, and that he thinks they should be seriously considering getting her to a hospital. ‘Maybe’ the doctor replies, explaining that he would like to try talking with her once more though.
The doctor sits beside a bed and addresses the woman is Ann Raymond, asking her if she can hear him. ‘Can you tell me how you’re feeling today?’ he asks. Ann moans and exclaims that she cannot stay here, that she has got to them, and get to Los Angeles. The blond man remarks that is all they can ever get out of her and asks the doctor why he thinks she needs to get to L.A. – and who “them” might be. The doctor replies ‘Your guess is as good as anybody’s’ and remarks that he wishes there was some clue in the few things they found in her wallet.
The doctor holds up the newspaper clipping found in Ann Raymond’s wallet and the blond man remarks that it has got to be some sort of clue – ‘Maybe she’s a Vision groupie or something’ he remarks. The doctor tells him that was a bit glib – and cruel – and reminds him that they are supposed to be helping her. The blond man replies that he wants to help, before asking how he can when the only thing they know about her is her name, and that she is distraught over the old headline in the newspaper clipping: Avengers Confirm Vision is Not Torch.
Back at Saunders College, the She-Hulk tells Captain America that she doesn’t like this, that she thinks something about this place feels wrong. Captain American tells Jennifer that she might be right, adding that his old battle instincts have been twinging away like crazy since they got here. Suddenly the Vision enters the room where his friends are and assures them that there is nothing to distress themselves over.
Captain America shakes the Vision’s hand and tells him that it is great to see him, before asking where the Scarlet Witch is. ‘At present I am not aware of the precise location of my spouse, Captain America’ the Vision replies without any emotion, adding that as Jeremiah Random undoubtedly told them, Wanda departed on some errand of her own shortly after they arrived here. The Vision points out that he is not aware of the nature or destination of her errand.
Back in the lab, Ms. Klein announces that they are going to have to increase the assimilation process. A man with a moustache remarks that doing that could be dangerous if they force her mind to accept the new memories faster than its natural absorption rate. Ms. Klein declares that she knows it could prove extremely unpleasant for the subject, but the arrival of the other Avengers leaves them with little choice. Inside the tank, Wanda appears to scream.
Once again, within the burning brain of the Scarlet Witch, the vast panorama of the ages begins to unfold. Life spreads now, as do the great forests which will one day provide humankind with huge beds of coal. The lizards appear, developing within the brief span of a hundred million years into forms familiar to every schoolchild.
But to Wanda, these are not simply long dead images out of text books, as the creatures thrive and grow, she feels herself a part of it all. A part of each magnificent beast, their feelings are hers, their solemn march is as true a memory as if it were her own. She is one with the ancient monsters. She stalks as the tyrannosaurs…she tastes the hot blood of her prey.
And vaguely, only vaguely, she is aware of the furtive, scurrying things that dwell in her many shadows…the rodents.
Meanwhile, not very far away, Jeremiah Random leads Captain America and the She-Hulk through the robotics laboratories and remarks that, as they can see, their robotics training program is among the finest in the world. He explains that here, students from all over North America are prepared for lucrative careers in the commercial robotics field. Captain America remarks that this is impressive, before excusing himself as he declares that he has seen nothing here to indicate that these facilities are any better suited to help the Vision than the Avengers own.
Jeremiah Random smiles and tells Captain America that perhaps the facilities may not, but what they are really offering the Scarlet Witch is a new eye, a different approach. ‘Perhaps…’ replies Captain America, before remarking that surely Random would agree it is a great shame for Wanda to feel that she must turn to strangers after the Avengers did all they could. ‘Yes, a pity…’ Jeremiah Random replies, until he is interrupted by a blonde woman who whispers something to him, to which he replies that he will be right there.
Jeremiah Random turns, and excuses himself from Captain American and the Scarlet Witch as there is another urgent matter which he must attend to. He tells them to feel free to continue their tour, and one of his people will direct them back to the Vision when they are done. Captain America thanks Random, then when Random is out of ear-shot, Jennifer asks Cap if he is buying into this. Jennifer admits that she is no expert, but that some of the things here don’t look half as flash as what the Avengers have got.
Cap agrees, and declares that a lot of it looks like a Hollywood production designer’s idea of a robot factory, not the real thing. Cap suggests to Jennifer that they continue to play a long for a while and carry on with the tour as Random suggested – ‘But I think we’ll come back later tonight…unannounced!’
While Captain America and the She-Hulk wait for night-time, at the Grosvenor Memorial Hospital in Seattle, three of their West Coast teammates are currently visiting a tired old man residing in a government funded room. Janet van Dyne a.k.a. the Wasp sits beside the old man’s bed, and addressing him as Professor Horton, she asks him if he remembers her. The old man replies that he remembers, it was she who found him in the cell those men had put him in, and she freed him.
The Wasp tells the Professor that he is right, and asks him if he feels up to talking right now, as she and her friends have a lot they need to know, ‘For one thing, we believed for quite some time now that you were dead’. Simon Williams a.k.a. Wonder Man stands idly and watches as Professor Horton replies that he was told that, something about the creation of their android member, the Vision, ‘I was supposed to have…died in his arms’.
Dr. Hank Pym informs Professor Horton that is the story as they understood it, until very recently, and reminds the old man that he was supposed to have assisted the robot, Ultron-5 in the conversion of his original Human Torch android into the android known as the Vision, and for years now they have believed the Torch and the Vision were one and the same – but Horton’s words and Pym’s examinations now prove this is not the case.
Professor Horton remarks that the Vision could not be his Human Torch, anyone with the slightest understanding of androids would know that. Horton explains that the Human Torch was an artificial human and contained no mechanical parts, while the Vision does. Horton adds that the mixing of artificial organs and machine parts is what distinguished the Vision as a synthezoid and not an android. Dr. Pym replies that he now appreciates that distinction, and as one who has trained himself extensively in robotics, he feels he should have realized it sooner – especially since as Ant-Man he once took an impromptu tour of the Vision’s innards.
Dr. Pym points out that perhaps an even more important consideration now confronts them – informing everyone that the Vision learned the so-called true details of his origin from Immortus – ‘I can show you your past, Vision’ Immortus is believed to have said to the Vision – so obviously the “Master of Time” lied – but why?
‘Oh, never without good reason, my dear Doctor Pym…never without good reason’ Immortus mumbles to himself as he watches the Avengers West Coast talking with Professor Horton. Immortus boasts that it is a reason of cosmic consequence far beyond Pym’s three-dimensional comprehension. ‘Only one who is at home, as I am, in the myriad planes of the fourth dimension could ever hope to understand my reasons – or the place my calculated future has reserved for the Scarlet Witch…’. Immortus then turns his attention to another viewing portal, where the Scarlet Witch is being helped out of her tank by Jeremiah Random.
Wanda, clad in an all black spandex outfit, holds her head as Jeremiah Random asks her how she feels now. ‘Strange…as if I were awakening after a long, long sleep’ Wanda replies. Another man informs Random that all the readings show normal, meaning the assimilation was successful. ‘Good! Good!’ Jeremiah Random exclaims, before asking Wanda if she would like to rest, as there is much she needs to consider. ‘Yes…rest…need time to think…’ Wanda replies almost trance-like.
A scientist leads Wanda away while Ms. Klein tells Random that she hopes the accelerated assimilation has not done any undetected damage. Jeremiah replies that he thinks nothing is wrong and tells Ms. Klein that she was correct to take the steps she did. Ms. Klein thanks Random and smiles, exclaiming that this is a great day. ‘A great day indeed, Ms. Klein!’ Jeremiah Random declares that their successful assimilation of the Scarlet Witch paves the way for similar induction of all mutant-kind. He adds that the genetic barrier has been breached, so soon they shall be able to abandon the dead-end-street of humanity – ‘And then Homo Sapiens will go the same way as did the dinosaurs before them!’
The blonde scientist addresses the Scarlet Witch as “Miss Wanda” and as Wanda sits down in a plain room the scientist tells her to rest here for a while and she is sure she will feel fine in the morning. ‘Yes, thank you, I’m certain I shall’ Wanda replies, while thinking to herself that she suddenly feels very certain about everything – it is as if every doubt she has ever had in her life has been scrubbed away.
Lying down on the bed, Wanda thinks that she is beginning to understand some of the things her father has said – things he said in the days she and her brother Quicksilver were part of his Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, back in the days long before they even knew he was their father, when to them he was only Magneto – Master of Magnetism!
Wanda recalls how Magneto spoke often of the superiority if mutants such as they – Homo Superior – he called them. ‘He said that we were the future. Said that someday soon, all the humans would bow down to us…acknowledge us as their rightful masters!’ Wanda decides that she sees now her father was right – more than even he dared guess – humankind ha reached the end of its era of domination. ‘They must be left behind, like the dinosaurs, like the lesser mammals. Left out to die! And only that which endures shall remain!’ But while Wanda Maximoff drifts into a deep, contented sleep…she scarcely notices a low and rhythmic drone tickling at the underside of her mind.
A few hours later, the long summer twilight surrenders at last to the darkness of night…and all grows still and quiet about the campus of Saunders College. As Captain America and the She-Hulk make their way across campus, Cap tells Jennifer to be careful as no doubt the campus is loaded with security devices. ‘I’ll bet!’ replies Jen, before telling Cap to keep in mind that being unobtrusive is hardly her style – one of the disadvantages of being six foot seven and bright green.
Cap smiles, ‘True enough, Jen’ he replies before admitting that he is not exactly sylph-like himself either, before remarking that is half a lifetime in battle training has taught him anything it’s that stealth and size are not necessarily interdependent. ‘Follow my lead and I’ll show you what I mean!’ Leaping over a barrier, Cap tells Jen to take caution, as the low whine they can hear means there is a pressure sensor within the first few feet of this pavement.
Jen leaps over the first few feet and tells Cap that he continues to amaze her. Steve tells Jen to save the compliments until they have found Wanda, as his every instinct tells him that she is still here. Entering the complex, Cap remarks that this is the central tower complex, so if there is something amiss here, this place will be the heart of it. Cap tells Jennifer that if she has been cautious until now, she must now increase that caution tenfold.
Captain America remarks that the answers they are looking for will probably be in Random’s office, which, according to the building guide he is reading, is on the twentieth floor. Cap tells Jen that it will not be safe to use the elevators, so he hopes she feels up to a climb!
Shortly, arriving on the twentieth floor, the She-Hulk tells Cap ‘Not bad, you went up all forty flights four steps at a time!’ and asks if he ever gets winded. ‘Put it down to clean living, She-Hulk. That…and the super soldier serum in my veins!’ Entering the office of Jeremiah Random, She-Hulk notes that it is unlocked and unguarded. Cap remarks that this is starting to seem much to easy, and tapping into a computer, he suggests they see if their apparent good fortune holds, hoping that this desktop terminal will be able to access the main computer data bank without a security code.
It works, and Cap learns that the Scarlet Witch is being held in a sub-basement of a building just south of this one. Jen looks contemplative, and remarks that this office faces south. ‘I can guess what you’re thinking, She-Hulk…and I approve!’ Opening a door which leads out onto a balcony, Jen is pleased that Cap agrees and remarks that there is no point in skulking about now that they know Random and his people are up to no good. ‘See you in a few!’ Jen exclaims as she leaps from the balcony, landing with enormous force on top of the building nearby – and plunging hard through each ceiling and floor until she reaches the bottom.
Captain America leaps off of the balcony now, ‘Excellent!’ he thinks to himself, for he knows that with a twenty story drop propelling her, the She-Hulk seven-hundred pounds have punched them an entrance through several floors of the target structure, and he follows in his own fashion, dropping down through the holes in the ceilings and floors and landing on his shield, which can absorb any impact – so landing on it after a twenty story fall is less of a shock to Cap’s body than just stepping off a curb!
Cap collects his shield and tells Jen that it is time to get on with the invasion. Standing against a door, Jennifer calls Cap this way, as the stairs are marked as leading down to the sub-basement he found listed in the files. She-Hulk rushes down the stairs, until Cap tells her that he will lead now as while she may be virtually indestructible, they don’t know what kind of weaponry they may be up against. Jen stops, ‘You got it, Cap! I’ll yield to your shield any day!’ she jokes, before motioning around the sub-basement, as there is no one here, just that massive structure before them.
Cap remarks that “blockhouse” would seem to be the appropriate term, noting that it is obviously intended to withstand or contain a great force. ‘Like Wanda’s hex power for instance?’ Jen asks. ‘Possibly’ Cap replies, before telling Jen that personal experience has taught him there is very little on this world that can resist the Scarlet Witch’s mutant power.
Cap tells She-Hulk that, since she is almost as strong as her cousin, she should try and do something about that door. The cousin of Bruce Banner a.k.a. the Hulk smiles and exclaims ‘No sooner said than done’ and that it doesn’t look tougher than – but as the She-Hulk begins to punch the door, she simply falls through it, taking the door and a whole lot of rubble down with her.
Getting to her feet, the She-Hulk is confused, and tells Cap that there wasn’t anywhere near the amount of resistance she was expecting, adding that Cap was right, this is too easy, as if they wanted them to get in. ‘Indeed we did, She-Hulk’ the now-strange Scarlet Witch exclaims, before declaring that now both She-Hulk and Captain America have demonstrated their skills, ‘It is time for you to join us!’
Cap looks in and sees his dear friend acting strangely and tells Jennifer to get clear, as Wanda has been turned against them. ‘No, Captain. You are wrong!’ the Scarlet Witch replies ‘I have not been turned. I have, rather, been shown the truth! The great and ancient truth which has dwelled within all living things since the dawn of time!’ The Scarlet Witch simply lifts her hands slightly, and more rubble falls down on Captain America and the She-Hulk. ‘The truth you will come to share…once you, too, are properly assimilated!’
Meanwhile, in Milwaukee…’No! No! NO!’ exclaims Clint “Hawkeye” Barton, exclaiming that he has never seen a more useless bunch of misfits, before telling the Great Lakes Avengers – Mister Immortal, Big Bertha, Dinah Soar, Flatman and Doorman – to try the routine again. As Flatman untangles himself from Big Bertha, Big Bertha reminds Hawkeye that they have been at it all day and night. She exclaims that they know they are not up to Avengers standards and points out that he is not going to get them there in one day.
Clint tells Big Bertha to listen up, that while it may be her money paying for this gig – Clint cannot continue as he is interrupted by his wife Barbara “Bobbi” Morse-Barton a.k.a. Mockingbird. Bobbi tells Clint that she just picked up a transmission on the Avengers wave band, and while it was faint, she is sure it was the last gasp of a Quinjet emergency signal! Hawkeye exclaims that this is the moment they have been waiting for! ‘Avengers Assemble!’ he shouts as he and the others rush out, with Clint exclaiming that his former teammates are in trouble, so only they can rescue them…they being the Great Lakes Avengers!