'Rick!' Captain America a.k.a. Steve Rogers shouts as he sees on a monitor within Avengers HQ his ally Rick Jones pleading for help as he is attacked by some strange creature. Over the communications' line, Rick calls out to Cap for help, as he is dragged away by the creature. 'Rick! Where are you?' Cap asks, before the comm-link ends, and the monitor goes blank. Cap knows that he has to move fast, but can't re-establish the connection. He can trace it, however, and taps into the keyboard while remembering that Rick Jones was his partner, and tht he knows better than anyone that when Rick is in trouble, you have to be prepared to follow him anywhere. To Cap's surprise, the trace leads back to the West Coast Avengers Compound. He puts a connection in to the Compound, and soon, the original Human Torch answers the call from the Compound. The Torch apologizes to his ally and explains that the distress call can't have come from here, as this is only their back-up computer, and even that has not been operational for some time, so there is no way it could have been the source of Rick's transmission.
'Nonetheless, our computers say it was, Torch' Cap replies, before telling the Torch that he wished there was enough time to put this more delicately, and suggests to the Torch that he try interfacing with the system or something to check it out. 'Er, Cap...I may be an android, but as you should know, I'm an old android...ancient by modern standards. My internal systems are hardly compatible with today's circuit boards and computer chips' the Torch replies, before flicking a switch that he knows will run a systems check. The torch looks puzzled, and apologizes to Captain America, informing him that without even being activated, this system was somehow used recently to reroute a message to Avengers HQ in New York, and that it is from an address in the Midwest. The Torch starts to forward the coordinates to Captain America's computer, but when he looks back up at his screen, he sees Captain America has already left.
Elsewhere: 'Perfect' a boy wearing glasses, hunched over a computer thinks to himself as he stares into the screen. 'Too, too... perfect!' he tells himself as he taps into the computer keyboard and watches his screen, which depicts Captain America running down a corridor. He continues to tap away at the keyboard and tells himself that should complete the final edit. 'Now all that's left to do is relay it via modem to -' he starts to think, before a loud banging on his door is heard, and a woman screams 'STEEEEVIEEEE!' 'Mom!' the boy calls back, before his mother bursts into the room and tells him that it is time for bed. 'Whew – done!' Stevie thinks to himself, as he turns his computer off, Yes, Mom!' he replies. But when his mother leaves his room, Stevie climbs out a window, 'Yeah, right...like me and my rock don't have more important things to do' he thinks to himself as he jumps down to the ground, telling himself that his mom wouldn't have anything to worry about if she only knew that noting can go wrong as long as he has his lucky black rock. Stevie then runs off into the night.
Nearby, a Quinjet streaks towards an abandoned amusement park, where Captain America thinks to himself that according to the Torch, this amusement park was the source of Rick's mysterious message. Cap puts the Quinjet into autopilot, and leaps from the Quinjet, dropping down into the abandoned amusement park, where he lands on his trusty shield and slides down the rollercoaster track. 'This seems too easy' Cap thinks to himself, before one of the amusement rides, shaped like a clown face, begins to laugh at him.
Elsewhere, several figures stand in the shadows, two male figures, someone with wings, a large round figure and a elongated stretched figure, are gathered together, as one of the male figures tells the others that he gathered them all together, because he just got a call from Captain America himself. 'The Avengers need us?' the elongated, stretched figure exclaims, surprised. The other male figure asks how come, if he is supposed to be in charge of communications, why Captain America contacted him. 'Because I'm the leader' the other male figure responds. 'Which means when Ashley didn't show up for monitor duty, he got stuck with it' one of the others remarks. 'Excuuuuse me, I've got a life' the large round figure mutters as they gather before the abandoned amusement park.
Back at the Avengers West Coast Compound, the Torch is still trying to figure out how nan inactive computer managed to send a message across the country. He tries to trace Rick's communique from within the system, but it shocked to discover that according to the scan, the amusement park wasn't the original source of the transmission – just another relay station. 'And worse yet, the computers have identified an alien energy residue similar to -' the Torch thinks to himself, moving back away from the computer as it starts to spark. The Torch turns to another computer, recalling how Jarvis told him that Cap took off in a Quinjet, but he tries hailing the Quinjet and gets no response. The Torch realizes that Cap is heading into a trap, and contacts Wonder Man, whose face appears on the monitor system. 'What's up, Hot Pants?' Wonder Man asks. The Torch transfer control of the central console to Wonder Man's quarters, and tells him that he really has to fly, as he then blasts out of the communications room.
At the amusement park, Captain America walks through the laughing clown face, deciding that there is something going on in this building. He makes his way through the building, but with no sign of Rick, realizes that this reeks of a trap, only he has seen nothing but fun house paraphernalia so far. Suddenly, Cap spins around as figures approach him, 'Looks like I spoke too soon' he thinks to himself, as shadowy figures approach him.
Speaking of shadowy figures, the strange group of odd-shaped beings continues on through the amusement park, 'So y'all understand what we're after...and who we'll be up against?' one of them asks. The winged woman utters something in her native tongue, as energy bubbles around one of the male figures, 'You think it's a thrill for me?' he asks. 'Right. Then everyone dive in!' the other male figure calls out, while the large woman mutters that she really hates this part.
The Human Torch flies through the night sky, knowing that he really has to pour on the speed, create his own thermal updraft to increase his velocity. He was able to trace the transmission back as far as a system in the Midwest with a limited access to Avengers computers before some kind of hyper-loop exploded his console, which he thinks was probably caused be the energy residue in the system that the computer identified as the power of the mystic Ruby of Cyttorak! Some thunder booms as the Torch flies into dark clouds, while thinks to himself that Captain America doesn't know that he is heading into the very power that created the Juggernaut!
in flashback images:
Thanks to the Avengers Files, the Torch has learnt that Cain Marko was a nobody going nowhere when he found the mystic ruby of Cyttorak in Southeast Asia, one touch and he was soon making trouble for every superhero with a reputation – from the X-Men to Thor. Often working alone, but sometimes with his buddy Black Tom Cassidy, and one time, used the gem of Cyttorak to turn the Black Tom into another Juggernaut – but didn't realize that it would mean sharing his own power and that he would only be half a Juggernaut himself – so that no one could steal his energy from him again, the Juggernaut hurled the gem of Cyttorak into space.
'And that was the last anyone had heard of the mystic ruby of Cyttorak -' the Torch thinks to himself, before he screams in pain as he is struck by a bolt of lightning mid-flight.
Back at the funhouse, Cap is defending himself against funhouse gimmicks that have become malevolent, animatronic beings that attack him. Laughter resonates around him and the lights shine bright, distracting him from the task at hand, while he notices that the walls are starting to close in. He supposes that means he is on the right track, but he wonders where Rick is, and continues to battle the animatronics, unaware that a figure behind the scenes is watching him, tapping away at a keyboard. Cap hears a screaming, and calls out 'Rick!' as he leaps past several of the animatronics, all shouting 'Get it!' 'Get it!' while Cap heads in the direction the scream came from. As the floor buckles, he uses that momentum to clear past the animatronics, and leaping upwards, watches as the walls close in on the animatronic beings, crushing them, before he falls through another door as the boy behind the scenes presses a button on the keyboard control system.
Cap crashes through another wall and finds himself in some sort of river ride, where he is annoyed at how ridiculous this is, and frustrated that it isn't leading him any closer to Rick. He dives down under the river, thinking that this is just as bad as the fun house. The current rages out of control, forcing him back up above the surface, he worries that he is going to smash into the boats at the end of the tunnel up ahead. He gets back under the water, making his way past the boats, before he floats towards a waterfall. Cap puts his shield under himself to break his fall, and as he plummets off the end of the waterfall, he wonders how anyone gets by without an indestructible shield. Landing safely, Cap is then punched by a strange large creature that grins in the shadows, and takes Cap's shield from him, 'Got it' the creature grins.
Outside, the Human Torch flies towards the amusement park, rubbing his head after the lightning bolt packed a mean punch. His circuits are self-repairing, but he knows it will take time until he is one hundred percent, and wonders if he should look into updating his systems. He tells himself that will have to wait, and as he thinks he has found the action, and realizes Cap could be in trouble already. He drops down and finds several figures that look similar to him. 'Whoa! Under attack... by more Torches?' he thinks to himself. He fires a blast at one of the figures, but all he does is shatter a mirror. He realizes that he overreacted, as the figures are just his reflection. Watching from behind the scenes, Stevie is surprised to see the Torch, he wasn't expecting him, but decides that it should just add to the fun. He holds up the gem of Cyttorak and tells himself that he needs to get his “toys” in order. The Torch then clears a path out of the hall of mirrors, and fires a powerful blast – which somehow reflects back at the Torch, amplified, his own blast knocks him to the ground.
A group of animatronic figures gather around the Torch, who wonders what is going on, and then fires a blast at one of the creatures, while another passes right through him, and interferes with his internal circuits somehow. He assumes that they are ghosts – but then sees figures of Toro, Union Jack, the Sub-Mariner and others from his past. 'But they're dead...I can't fight them!' the Torch thinks to himself, covering his face with his hand, telling himself that he can't even fight a mouse in this condition, when suddenly, he sees a figure running out of the hall, 'Rick? Rick Jones?'
Outside, the Torch follows the person he believes is Rick, while at the same time, Captain America is following the monster-like being. 'I'm catching up to it' Cap thinks to himself, while the Torch wonders what Rick is running from. 'I'll take that, gruesome!' Cap declares as he grabs his shield from the creature, while the Torch calls out to Rick, asking him to stop, and explaining that he is a friend. Cap and the Torch don't appear to see each other as they follow their quarry into a wax museum – and they don't notice the boy, Stevie, sitting on top of the wax musuem sign, snickering and laughing. Suddenly, inside the wax museum, Cap comes to a stop, and the Torch gulps hard as they find themselves confronted by a large number of super beings including Thor, Iron Man, Sersi, the Hulk, Cable, Power Man, Mr Fantastic, Quicksilver and more.
Cap immediately realizes that they are animated wax figures, and deduces that they seem to have diluted versions of the real heroes' powers – but he knows he has to get pat them to find that creature, as he was the one on the video threatening Rick. The Torch discovers that these wax beings are pretty slow, so he just flies over them, knowing that their rel strength is in their numbers, and he sees Rick Jones right in the middle of them. 'Help!' Rick calls out as the large creature reaches for him. Cap sees the creature grab Rick and races towards him – but he sees the Torch hovering nearby, and thinks that he is just another wax double to get through, so hurls his shield towards him. 'Hey! This one's quick!' the Torch thinks to himself as he releases a surge of flame towards Cap's shield. The shield is knocked aside, and the Torch fires a blast that melts some of the wax statues, causing the floor to become sticky with thr wax. 'Where is Rick Jones?' both Cap and the Torch shout at once, before they find themselves stuck in the mess on the floor. 'Wait a minute...' Cap thinks, while the Torch admits that the shield took him by surprise. 'Hang on...' he thinks to himself, before the Torch and Cap calls out to each other, realizing the other is the real deal.
Suddenly, Rick screams, as the creature plunges its fingers into his eyes. Cap and the Torch call out to Rick, when suddenly, one of the outer walls collapses inwards, towards Cap, but the Torch fires a blast at the gunk keeping Cap trapped, freeing him. Cap returns the favor by rushing forward and pulling the Torch from the melted wax, using his shield to knock away some debris that falls towards the Torch. At that moment, 'Hold it right there!' a voice calls out, and Captain America and the Human Torch look up to see five figures that have emerged from the shadows behind the fallen wall – 'The Great Lakes Avengers!' Captain America exclaims, shocked. 'What are they doing here?' the Torch asks. Big Berth explains that they had come simply to retrieve something for a comrade – and now they find these two imposters participating in the murder of fellow Avenger Rick Jones, referring to the lifeless form with hollowed out eyes nearby. 'Great Lakes Avengers Assemble!' Mister Immortal shouts as he leads Bertha, Doorman, Dinah Soar and Flatman towards Cap and the Torch. 'Say what?' Cap utters, before the Torch grabs Cap and takes flight, announcing that they are out of here.
Mister Immortal calls out to Dinah Soar, who flies up in front of the Torch, and smacks him back to the ground with one of her wings. 'Speaks volumes with those razor tipped wings, doesn't she!' the Torch jokes, before Flatman wraps his elongated body around Captain America, who asks him what this is all about. 'You're supposed to be on the side of the Avengers!' Cap exclaims. 'And we intend to remain so, “Captain”. Now give it up!' Flatman retorts as he tries to grab Cap's shield from his hands. The Torch follows Dinah Soar, having ascertained that she is trying to lead him away from the battlesite, and decides that can be quickly enough remedied with a single fire ball, which he blasts at her, causing her to plummet to the ground.
'What are you doing to me?' Flatman exclaims as Captain America manages to move himself out of Flatman's tangled body. 'Just wrapping up a bit so that we can have a little talk – straighten a few things out!' Cap replies as Mister Immortal begins to sneak up to him – until the Human Torch sees this, and fires a blast at Mister Immortal, hoping to put him out of action for a while. Mister Immortal screams when the blast trikes him, and he falls to the ground – seemingly dead. As Cap tangles Flatman up around a column, the Torch is horrified and declares that he didn't mean to kill Mister Immortal. 'I guess I just assumed... with a name like Mr Immortal... that he couldn't be -' the Torch begins, to which Cap tells the Torch that he doesn't understand, and explains that Mister Immortal is dead, but, believe it or not, he will get better – that is his power. As if on cue, Mister Immortal is resurrected, and immediately grabs Captain America's shield and rushes through a door, punching Cap in the process, and causing him to keel over. Mister Immortal tells himself that he should be able to make it to the Wax Museum, while the Torch decides if that is really Mister Immortal's power, then they should give it a workout, blasting him with another surge of flame, causing Mister Immortal to scream as he dies, dropping the shield in the process.
Suddenly, 'Cap – watch out for Big Betha!' the Torch calls out as Berth drops down towards him – until the Torch flies into her, before he is swallowed by her flesh, cutting him off mid-sentence as he informs Cap that Betha is faster than she looks. 'Get offa him, Bertha – now or I'll be forced to -' Cap begins as he hurls his shield towards Bertha, but Doorman leaps in front of it, 'Whatever it is, you'll do it without this shield!' Doorman calls out, telling Cap that he must have forgotten about him. 'You wish, pal!' the Torch remarks as he manages to emerge from Big Bertha's folds, he holds her above his head, and Cap gets underneath, too, helping the Torch, he tells Doorman that they thought they would take care of two birds with one very big stone! They theyn hurl Big Bertha towards Doorman, who falls backwards as Big Bertha passes through his doorway body.
Soon, inside the wax museum, Cap crouches down beside the Rick Jones figure, confirming, as he suspected, that it was a wax figure, somehow animated by that red glow.
Outside, the Torch confronts the Great Lakes Avengers, pointing out that now they have established who the real Avengers are, he wants one of them to explain. 'He's the boss' Big Bertha mutters, motioning to Mister Immortal. 'Er, would you believe there's been a bit of a mix-up?' Mister Immortal asks. He explains that they were contacted on their limited access Avengers computers by Captain America himself. 'Ahem' the Torch interjects, clearing his throat. 'I mean by someone who looked extremely like Captain America' Mister Immortal corrects himself, revealing that he wanted them to retrieve his shield from a fake Cap who had stolen it. 'I can guess the rest' the Torch remarks, before telling the Great Lakes Avengers that whoever used their computers to get into the Avengers' computer and set a trap for the real Cap, was somehow utilizing the power of the mystic ruby of Cyttorak, before asking where the shield is.
'I just teleported it over – it's gone!' Doorman calls out when he looks at where the shield was supposed to be. 'Nothing but an empty box of peanuts' Big Bertha points out. 'Then we helped steal Captain America's shield?' someone asks. 'Not quite' Cap announces as he appears, holding his shield. He reports that he noticed shortly after he got here that most of the fun house gimmicks seemed concentrated on getting his shield, so in the wax museum he took precautions to protect it. He states that the Avengers will find whoever is responsible for this, and they might look for the real Rick Jones while they are at it – but in the meantime, the perpetrator is in for a surprise when he tries to use the shield for whatever his dark purpose is.
The next morning, closer than the Avengers could know, at a school, where a teacher tells one student to sit down, and that they gave an excellent presentation of their father's fire fighter equipment. 'You can clean up all the foam after class' the teacher informs the student. 'Way to go!' another student calls out, before the teacher asks Stevie to come up front and show what he brought today. 'Give it up!' one of the other students calls out. 'Must you, class?' the teacher complains, while Stevie holds the glowing red rock in his hand, thinking that he knows a zillion ways he could destroy them all – but he doesn't want to. Rather, he wants to see their humiliated reactions when they see what he has brought for show and tell. 'He holds a large satchel under his arm, and tells his classmates that before he shows them what he has, he must share a little background information with them. 'Sit down!' one of the other students calls out, while another hisses. 'Must I, class -' the teacher begins, while Stevie thinks that his classmates are fools.
He begins by telling them that it all started a while back somewhere in space, when a red rock was sent hurtling to Earth somehow – and he happened to be there when it landed, and only he was smart enough to recognize what it was – a very special prize – his lucky red rock! The teacher interrupts and reminds Stevie that they were all there on that geology field trip when he found the stone, but none of them were able to identify it from their text books. 'I'm not finished yet' Stevie tells his teacher, before boasting that his lucky red rock gave him super powers, and he used them to defeat the Juggernaut, and that last night, he battled with the Avengers against an amusement park gone amok, and that Captain America himself gave him his indestructible shield as a token of his appreciation. But as Stevie removes the shield from the satchel, he is forlorn, as a partially melted shield is all that he pulls out. His classmates begin snickering and snorting, while Stevie realizes that the Avengers switched Cap's shield with one from the exhibit in the wax museum. 'I think I'm going to cry' he utters to himself, while his classmates burst into laughter. Stevie clenches the gem of Cyttorak in his hand and looks determined, vowing to make them pay – especially the Avengers – but first: 'This class just got a new teacher!' he exclaims.