November 22nd, 1963:
‘Well, Mr. President…you certainly can’t say that Dallas doesn’t love you today!’ one of the men riding in President John F. Kennedy’s car remarks. President Kennedy and his lovely wife Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy smile at their adoring public who have gathered to catch a glimpse of them on this day.
However, in the security of a nearby building, a sniper aims his rifle at the President of the United States of America. That moment, there is a gunshot, as the sniper is shot in the back of the head. Several police officers enter the room, ‘You got him, Agent Corrigan!’ one of them remarks. ‘I always hit what I aim for, officer’ Corrigan replies, before remarking that it is a good thing that they got the phone tip though, when suddenly, they hear more gunfire, outside this time. ‘Oh my God - no!’
‘Unfortunately, yes’ a striking man in a blue suit declares as he stands near the road, watching as the Presidential car is driven away at a fast pace, flanked by police motor cycles. ‘Yet again, a young American president is struck down by an assassin’s bullet on a fateful Friday in November, 1963’. The mysterious man remarks that, yet again, a black limousine careens away from Dealey Plaza, racing for Parkland Hospital in a foredoomed attempt to save a swiftly ebbing life. Glancing up at the building behind him, the man adds that this time however, the whole world will know that the fatal shot was not fired from the sixth floor of the Texas School book depository.
‘This time, the “single assassin theory” will received deservedly short shrift - and no frenzied rush to judgment can possibly ignore credible reports of gunmen firing from a “grassy knoll”. Walking down the street now, the man in blue remarks that it is almost tempting to remain, to see if it all makes any difference in the end. Almost. But not quite. His blue suit begins to disappear as a gateway in Space-Time opens, and he steps through it, declaring ‘Not when this was the last of the divergences which must be summarily eliminated - in order that Immortus will be reinstated as Master of Time!’
Back in his citadel now, and clad in his green and purple outfit, Immortus remembers how the first time through he overlooked that particular chronal pocket, being drawn to others in which Kennedy survived the assassination attempt. He decides that he can now finally afford to concentrate his efforts on the time-line which has always been central to his plan - ‘and let the endgame begin‘! he grins as he begins to watch certain events transpire in Palos Verdes, California, Earth-616, the present day.
‘The lighthouse - it must have been weakened by the earthquake!’ screams a woman as she and dozens of other civilians rush from the creaking old building. ‘It’s starting to crumble!’ she screams, while someone else urges everyone to run for the lives. Overhead, four of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, members of the West Coast branch of the Avengers, have arrived to see what they can do. From the security of his Iron Man armor, Tony Stark remarks to actor Simon Williams a.k.a. Wonder Man that if the earthquake they just had, perhaps Stark Enterprises should have kept New York as its home base.
‘Hey! Don’t blame California for everything!’ Simon exclaims, and socialite Janet Van Dyne a.k.a. the winsome Wasp backs him up, reminding Iron Man that it was all the doing of that madman, Vibro. From inside his little flight-ship, Dr. Hank Pym tells his teammates to do the post-mortem later, and motioning to Point Vicente Lighthouse, he declares that it isn’t going to wait. Wonder Man drops down beside the old structure, pointing out that it has held up pretty good for sixty years, so all it needs is a little muscle, and he would bet that it is good for another sixty.
Hank replies that he hopes Simon won’t mind if they don’t put his theory to the test, before calling out to Iron Man. Iron Man announces that his repulsor rays are on, while Simon uses his incredible strength to temporarily support the base of the lighthouse, thanking Iron Man, for although he is strong enough to keep the tower from toppling, it is threatening to fall apart in his hands. From inside his craft, Hank exclaims ‘And that, old buddy, is why this combo’s called Avengers West Coast - and not “Wonder Man and several other bozos in fancy costumes”!’
Hank then uses his aircraft to send out magnetic grapples, which hold the top of the lighthouse in place. He informs Iron Man and Wonder Man that this should give them some time to prop some reinforcements against the base, though the grapples will not prevent a few fragments from chipping off still. The Wasp darts around, exclaiming that is where she comes in, flitting over towards some of the chunks, she calls out to some civilians who have come rushing out of the lighthouse, telling them to stay inside. People wonder where the voice comes from, when someone sees her. ‘Out there! It’s that shrunken Avenger gal - the Wasp!’ someone remarks.
A little girl exclaims that the Wasp flew right into the midst of all the chunks, and a surprised Wasp regrets that, as her bio-stings are not functioning. A large rock is about to fall on her, when an arrow shoots it out of the way. Wasp sees Clint “Hawkeye” Barton, the Avenging Archer arriving with the handsome USAgent on a flight-cycle. Wasp thanks her teammate, before asking him where he came from. ‘Detroit, where else?’ Clint replies, before explaining that he stopped off at the Avengers West’s Compound only to find USAgent chomping at the bit to go help the rest of them clean up after that earthquake.
The Wasp exclaims that is great, before asking where Mockingbird is - not that she means to pry, only - ‘Only you thought the wife and I were busy trying to turn the so-called “Great Lakes Avengers” into a fighting team worthy of the franchise!’ Clint remarks that is half right, and reveals that Bobbi is back with the GLA in Milwaukee, but he decided that his place was back here with the team that he founded. ‘Not that you guys have been exactly knocking down my door since I was fired…’ Clint adds.
Janet tells Clint that he wasn’t fired, and reminds him that he quit, before welcoming him back. Wasp turns to the USAgent and tells him that she is glad to see he is out of the infirmary since their battle with Wanda and Magneto. ‘Who’d you think was going to stop me? That nurse you hired?’ Agent replies. The Wasp begins to say that it is the nurses’ job to look after them, when she notices Iron Man returning with a load of steel girders. ‘Yeah, and what’ll Tony Stark gets a load of the bill! - Then again, maybe he already has!’
The Wasp, in a hushed voice, tells Clint that they do not know for sure if this new Iron Man is really Tony Stark. As Iron Man and Wonder Man begin putting the girders in place, the Wasp points out that even if they did know, they all agreed not to mention it in front of the USAgent, whom they barely know. The Wasp adds that whatever this Iron Man’s secret identity is, she is sure he will tell them in his own good time, but until then, they should just be happy he is here to add some East-Coast Credibility to a team that seems to spend most of its time just cleaning up its own backyard!
From his flight craft, Hank asks if everything is under control down there, before announcing that he is disengaging the grapple. Wonder Man remarks to Hawkeye that it is rather ironic, for while they are all saving an official South Bay historical landmark, the city of Palos Verdes is trying to make them vacate their Compound because they supposedly attract a bad element to the neighborhood. Clint replies that technically, this area is in Rancho, before telling Simon that he understands what he means, and motioning to a crowd of onlookers, he thinks they did too.
One of the civilians suggests to the others that they go and show the Avengers that they appreciate what they have done here. ‘Oh, Avengers! Captain America!’ one of them calls out to USAgent, who swiftly turns and exclaims ‘Hold it right there! First off, I’m not Captain America. The name is USAgent - remember it!’ before telling the people that it is too dangerous for them to be roaming around here, so he wants them to all go home. One of the crowd remarks that they are not residents, but tourists. ‘Well, then - go back to your hotels. That’s an order!’
Watching the USAgent, Clint remarks to Janet that things don’t seem to have changed much, for ever since the Feds shoved the USAgent onto the team, he has been acting like he is team leader - ‘Like I used to be’. Jan informs Clint that is the problem, as they do not have an official chairman at the moment, although she thinks it is high-time that they did. ‘My point exactly!’ Clint mutters.
Soon, ‘Three cheers for the Avengers West!’ someone cries as the Avengers all take their leave to an adoring group of fans below. Wonder Man remarks to Iron Man that interviewers often ask him why he doesn’t quit the Avengers to concentrate on his movie career, well this is the real thing, not hanging around watching stuntmen do most of the heroics because the studio’s insurance company is terrified he will stub his big toe. Iron Man remarks that Simon has come along way from the envy-ridden guy who used to blame Tony Stark for his failure - ‘At least so Mr. Stark tells me’ Iron Man quickly adds, before mentioning that right now they have got the Scarlet Witch to worry about.
Wonder Man agrees, ‘If she really means to help Magneto and revive the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants…’ From within his flight-craft, Hank exclaims that she does, as something happened to her when she learned that her children were only a figment of her hex-powered imagination, he adds that he has a plan however. Janet asks her lover if his plan has anything to do with Quicksilver, reminding him that he was going to tell her something about Pietro. Hank remarks that he doubts Magneto can monitor them from within his rover, so he will let her in on it….
Meanwhile, on an Asteroid high above Earth. ‘ah, how gratifying it is to have my family gathered around me once again!’ the Master of Magnetism, Magneto, exclaims, walking side by side with his children, Wanda Maximoff a.k.a. the Scarlet Witch, and Pietro Maximoff a.k.a. Quicksilver. Pietro remarks that he came because he was summoned, but that her is still startled by the change in his sister. ‘I suggest, Pietro, that you do not patronize me by speaking as If I were not here - or you will find out, most painfully, that I am!’ Wanda declares.
Quicksilver assures his sister that he meant no offense, but that she has changed so much. Wanda, sporting her recently adopted costume and short hair style, declares that it is as she said - she has merely awakened to the yawning abyss between they and the pitiful human mass that creeps and crawls on the mud-ball below. ‘I was referring to the startling increase in your hex power’ Pietro states. Magneto admits that is even a mystery to himself, before declaring that what matters is that they use Wanda’s heightened abilities in the coming final clash between mutants and mankind - a clash which begins now.
The Master of Magnetism stands before a computer console showing a map of the world and tells his children to imagine snowstorms blanketing the Sahara, hurricanes lashing the prairies, and tornadoes uprooting Los Angeles - all the probabilities of the Earth’s weather will be instantly altered the instant he presses this red button - which he almost does, until Pietro cries ‘STOP!’ ‘You disappoint me, son!’ Magneto declares as he uses his powers to mould some metal, attempting to trap his son in it as he remarks that in spite of his suspicions, he hoped that Quicksilver did not intend to betray him.
Magneto adds that he is almost ashamed to have flushed his son out into the open with such a transparent ploy. ‘Then your threat to the world’s weather was only a trick?’ Pietro asks, easily avoiding his father’s trap as he speeds over to Magneto assuring him that it will not work, and punching him in the face. Magneto admits that Quicksilver has honed his speed since the last met, evading the sheeting which he tried to bind him with. Pietro grabs some tubing, remarking that fortunately, not quite everything here in Asteroid M is made of metal as he winds the rope around his father.
Wanda stands unemotionally and tells her brother that he is very clever, but that if he truly expected to stop them, then he should have wound that plastic tubing tightly around Magneto’s neck and strangled him. Pietro turns to his sister and asks her what is wrong, what happened to make her more cruel, more ruthless than ever - even in those unenlightened days when they sought to bend humanity to the mutant yoke? ‘You speak of those days in the past tense. To me, they are the certain future!’ Wanda declares, adding ‘As certain as the probability that the steel floor beneath your feet will collapse like moistened paper at my merest gesture!’ With that, Wanda raises her hand ever so slightly, and Quicksilver falls through the floor that has given way underneath him.
As Quicksilver plummets to the level below him, Wanda calls down through the hole ‘And if a man cannot even stand, he cannot run - he can only fall’. There is a terrible sound as Quicksilver lands, injuring his left leg. ‘How could you do it, Wanda?’ a shocked Pietro asks, declaring ‘Like father when he turned us into criminals - you have betrayed me!’ Wanda stands over the hole, telling her brother that he must surely realize by now that she is no longer the little girl that he has over-protected for most of their lives. Wanda turns to her father, informing him that she will free him, but Magneto tells her not to bother, and as the plastic binds fall off, he remarks that Pietro should have guessed that even the plastic in this satellite would contain magnetized metal particles.
Magneto explains that he only allowed Pietro to bind him so he could gauge Wanda’s reaction, and as he magnetically lowers himself and Wanda on a scrap of metal down to the level Pietro is on, Magneto reveals that he had pegged Quicksilver for a traitor when he so conveniently arrived to “rescue” the two of them from Dr. Henry Pym. Standing over his son, Magneto remarks that he only wished Quicksilver’s pitifully inadequate scheme had a bit more depth to it.
Suddenly, Quicksilver declares ‘Then you can be proud of me again, father - for there was more to it!’ with that, Quicksilver reveals in his hand a very tiny Lockjaw, the Inhumans’ royal dog. Magneto and Wanda are both equally surprised, and Wanda exclaims that Lockjaw is reduced in size so greatly that Pietro could have hidden him inside his belt. Quicksilver sets Lockjaw on the ground and reveals that when he teleported him to the Avengers Compound in California, Dr. Pym bombarded him with “Pym Particles” in a way which kept him shrunken until his own high-speed vibrations acted on him. Lockjaw looks at Wanda and Magneto, and Quicksilver tells him to hurry, before they can strike at him as well to use his powers to teleport all four of them down to…
…Avengers Compound! Except, Quicksilver is shocked to find they are not at Avengers Compound in Palos Verdes, though the Avengers West Coast are all present. Quicksilver is greeted by Hawkeye, while Magneto asks his daughter what place this is - ‘Has that mongrel brought us to the Inhumans’ domain on the Dark Side of the Moon?’ Wanda is confused, and replies that she doesn’t think so - but she cannot be sure.
Dr. Pym gives Wanda a fair warning, telling her to step aside from her father or they Avengers cannot be responsible for what happens. USAgent tells Pym to hold his horses, ‘Who says Magneto’s the main enemy? From what I’ve seen, our number one priority ought to be the Witch!’ ‘Your major concern, Agent, should be staying alive - something you will be hard pressed to do if you take so much as a step in our direction!’ Wanda declares.
Wonder Man looks at the Scarlet Witch, forlorn, he thinks that he cannot believe it, and he is almost glad that the Vision is not human any more, or he would be shattered to see the change that has come over the woman he used to love. ‘I know he would - because it’s tearing me apart to see her this way…since I’m still in love with her!’ Simon tells himself.
Magneto tells Wanda to keep back, as these fools before them do not understand that the dark days are coming, ‘And I will not lose any of my family again!’ Wanda replies that she will do as he says, to which Pym declares that the Avengers have no choice. ‘Let’s go, Avengers!’ he orders, and the Avengers rush towards their foe. ‘Have you learned nothing from our previous encounters? Why not simply hurl paper planes and rubber bands against me instead?’ Magneto jokes, adding that they would stand far more chance than their metal missives did.
Magneto turns Hawkeye’s arrow back on himself, trapping Clint in the net that springs from the arrow, while USAgent is smacked in the face by his own shield as it is sent back to him. Similarly, Magneto’s power interferes with Wonder Man’s rockets, and he is thrown off balance mid-flight. Hank declares that Pietro is not the only one with a shrunken trick up his sleeve, and reveals a popgun that he specially designed to neutralize Magneto’s powers. Hank fires the gun, as Magneto declares that be believes a very old human adage is applicable - “Back to the drawing board”! With that, Magneto knocks Hank back, while the Wasp begins firing her sting in Magneto’s air, only for him to slam his fist upon his helmet, causing the Wasp to fall out, landing disorientated on the ground, right by the Scarlet Witch.
Janet calls out to her friend, telling her that she cannot let Magneto do this, when suddenly Wanda’s foot appears above a screaming Wasp, only for Wanda to stop suddenly as she hears a voice say Wanda! Cease this nonsense! The Wasp quickly flies up to Wanda’s face, and wonders what that was all about, as all of a sudden the Scarlet Witch has gone rigid, now she is standing as if she is in a trance. Jan wonders ‘Does somebody up there like me - or did I just get lucky?’
Suddenly, Iron Man flies overhead, carrying some large contraption with him. Magneto declares that he was wondering when the second-generation Iron Man had got to, adding that is surprised Iron Man didn’t attack him in the first wave now that he has demagnetized his skin-tight armor. Iron Man tosses the large contraption at Magneto who mutters that he sees that Iron Man wisely prefers to assault him from a distance with over-sized toys, adding that he knows Iron Man cannot have applied his demagnetizing agent to his entire armor, when suddenly, the device Iron Man threw at Magneto smashes into him, as it was made of painted wood - there was no metal in it.
Magneto looks around and wonders what all the grinning porpoises are doing hanging around, to which Iron Man tells him that if he would spend more time having fun and less trying to conquer the world, then he might have easily recognized this as the “Atlantis” exhibit in the defunct aquarium they used to call Ocean World. Wonder Man remarks that they did de-metal things in a hurry, ‘You think we were gonna let you trash our compound like everybody and his brother?’
Magneto remarks that he sees that this battle is a stalemate, and not only that, but a meaningless stalemate. He calls to Wanda and tells her that it is time they were gone, but Wanda does not move. ‘Don’t think she heard you, chum!’ Iron Man mutters, to which Magneto declares that whatever they have done to her it will not work. He sends a magnetic wave to latch onto the metal fibres in Wanda’s clothing, but he is shocked to see that his powers just vanish, passing out of this world and into another. Magneto realizes that the Avengers - humans - didn’t do this, and declare that he fears there are alien forces at work here, which even his vaunted magnetism cannot fight. He adds that until he can learn what they are and how he may overcome them, he must take his leave. With that, he blasts through the roof of Ocean World, and out into the open air.
Iron Man and Wonder Man fly after him, with Iron Man telling Magneto that it is not that easy. Simon remarks that it is hard to believe they have Magneto on the run, to which Clint asks ‘So how come I got the feeling that he’s not taking a powder because we got him shaking in his booties?’ Pietro remarks to Lockjaw that Hawkeye senses the truth, however dimly. He adds that to gain the time to study the aura that surrounds Wanda, Magneto knew he must first defeat the Avengers, and he knew that they would not give way unless he killed them. Looking at Wanda, Pietro assumes that Magneto feared that the shock of the Avengers’ deaths might reverse Wanda’s newfound anti-human fervor, he however, doesn’t think it would have. Quicksilver tells Lockjaw that he thought that it was Magneto, despite his denials, who might somehow be behind the sinister change in his sister - but he now begins to suspect that for once in his life, Magneto was being manipulated by one more powerful than himself.
In the open air, Magneto declares ‘This is intolerable!’ as the Avengers West are not far behind him. ‘Magneto - undisputed master of the force that binds the universe - reduced to playing the sparrow fleeing the hungry hawks!’ As Hank’s flight craft shoots out a grapple, Magneto adds that ‘These hawks stab mindlessly with talons of metal - like me who would fight a killer shark by tossing slabs of red meat at it’ The Master of Magnetism suddenly stops in his tracks, declaring that he will retreat no further. ‘That’s just what we wanted!’ Hank exclaims, adding that he didn’t figure his grapple was going to reel in a big fish such as he, which is what the Avengers have people like Iron Man for!
Iron Man thanks Hank as he slams into Magneto, remarking that he has been waiting for this moment ever since the last time they tangled, ‘Iron versus magnet - talk about your natural grudge matches!’ Magneto suddenly declares ‘If so, Avenger - it is not one I care to hold public!’ and with that, Magneto forces himself and Iron Man down into a massive oil refinery smokestack. Wonder Man decides that he better get in there fast. As a loud rumble sounds, Clint tells Simon to save it for the movies, as that whole smoke stacks is about to blow - and it does, with a spectacular explosion.
Wonder Man regrets that he didn’t get inside sooner, when Hawkeye announcers that he can see somebody coming out of the smoke. ‘Which one is it?’ Hank asks from inside his craft, when Iron Man arrives, ‘Hey, show a little faith in me, people!’ he exclaims, before supposing that he and Magneto both clogged the smokestack, and after it blew up, Magneto disappeared in a burst of flame. Iron Man tells his teammates that as far as he can ascertain, Magneto was instantly destroyed. Clint is relieved to see that Iron Man is okay, before asking his teammates if they think that Magneto is really dead this time. ‘NAAAAHH’ they all reply, before Iron Man suggests they do a quick repair job on the smokestack. ‘Yeah, before still another South Bay community gets on our case!’ Wonder Man mutters, while Hawkeye tells everyone to make it snappy, concerned for his dear friend Wanda, he reminds them that they still have her to worry about.
A short time later, in wealthy Palos Verdes. Hawkeye, Iron Man, Wasp, Dr. Pym, Agent and Wonder Man stand with Quicksilver, Lockjaw and the unmoving Scarlet Witch, and Hank asks if things are still the same. Pietro replies that he fears so, as Wanda has not moved, except to breath, since she suddenly stood still in the middle of all the fighting. Agent asks if the Scarlet Witch still has that force field around her, and Pietro explains that it is not a force field of the type he is talking about, for there is no energy shield to prevent him from reaching out to touch her, and Pietro demonstrates, illustrating that when he gets close, his hand simply vanishes, returning only when he pulls it away from Wanda.
Iron Man asks his former teammate if he has tried to get Lockjaw to teleport Wanda out of the force field. Pietro replies that he has, but that Lockjaw’s powers do not affect the space where she stands. Suddenly, there is a voice that declares ‘Because, mutant, she does not stand merely in space, but also…in time!’ Everyone turns to the direction of the voice, and Quicksilver is confused as he doesn’t recognize the being that stands beside his sister. A fearful Hank exclaims that Quicksilver may have never ran into him before, but most of them have, and in fact he half-suspected the intruder might be at the bottom of what has been happening to the Avengers West Coast lately…Immortus!
The scheming Immortus puts an arm around the Scarlet Witch as he tells Dr. Pym ‘You can have at best only the most infinitesimal inkling of the game which Immortus has been playing!’ Immortus tells the Avengers that they have always been nothing more than pawns in his greater strategy, however the Scarlet Witch has just been promoted from a pawn…’To my Queen!’