The archive room, inside the Special Powers Compound, Fort George G Meade, in Maryland, where the new Captain America - John Walker - sits at a desk and watches footage of his predecessor, Steve Rogers, battling Nazis, the Red Skull and other criminals. ‘He was pretty good in his prime. Till I began studying him, I had no idea how good. But I’m Captain America now - and he’s not. No matter how good he was, I’m going to be better!’ John tells himself. ‘Ha! Me, John Walker, the former Super-Patriot - Captain America! I still can’t get over it!’ John reminds himself that when the original Captain America resigned, the Commission had to get somebody. ‘And I am the best man for the job’ he boasts, but admits that learning another man’s moves has not been the piece of cake he thought it would be.
John picks up a remote and pauses the monitor. ‘Right here. The bit with the shield. I’ve replayed this twice now and I still can’t figure out how he did it.’ John watches it in slow motion, and observes that the previous Captain America tosses the shield, imparting some sort of spin to it as he lets go, and watches as it hit’s the first thug in the mouth, and rolls across another two guys’ chests, hitting the fourth guy square, before the previous Captain America catches it. ’God and country! How do they expect me to learn that wrist-flick of his watching grainy old videos? I need a coach to teach me that’ John tells himself, while deciding that there is not anybody here who can teach him anything. ’I wonder if the guy who taught the original Cap how to use that thing is still alive. Doubt it’.
John tells himself to face facts - that the old Cap is probably the only guy in the world who knows the fine art of shield-throwing. John continues to watch the video, and wonders why the previous Cap really quit. ‘I may have razzed him for not being as patriotic as me - but a man doesn’t convince people he’s a symbol of liberty for a couple of decades by faking it. John realizes that he may never know the answer to that question. ‘Oh well, I’m the new Symbol of Liberty now and that’s that’.
Elsewhere in the facility, Dr Valerie Cooper watches a monitor and sees that Walker is still watching the tapes, even though archive study period was over a half hour ago, and he is supposed to be on his break. Suddenly, ‘Ms Cooper?’ a voice calls out. Valerie spins around and sees General Haywerth and Douglas Rockwell, and asks them to enter. ‘How’s our boy coming along?’ General Hayweth asks. ‘Quite well’ Valerie replies, explaining that Walker is conscientious and shows just the right amount of respect for his predecessor’s work and confidence that he is up to the task of replacing him.
Rockwell asks if it appears Walker will be ready for duty by the projected date, to which Valerie replies that he is very capable, but they are yet to find anyone qualified to teach him anything he doesn’t already know. ‘the Freedom Force makes adequate sparring partners, but as instructors…’ Val’s voice trails off while Rockwell and the General turn to leave, and Rockwell announces that they may have found someone who can provide Walker with the tutoring he needs. ‘We’ll let you know more about him as soon as we clear the red tape’ he announces, before asking Valerie to carry on.
Val wonders who they could have gotten that is capable of tutoring him. ‘The original Captain -? Impossible, he shook our agents weeks ago and we haven’t heard from him since’. Suddenly, the phone rings. ‘Now who?’ Valerie wonders, before an assistant informs Valerie that Ethan Thurm is on line three again. The assistant begins to ask if Val would like him to get rid of Ethan, but Valerie exclaims ‘No, put him through. I want to learn how that little creep got my private number’.
Elsewhere, Walker strides down a corridor in the Captain America costume, carrying the shield, he tells himself that here is where he finds out if all that extra cramming in the archives makes any difference, as it is time for shield practice. Suddenly, a voice calls out ‘He-hey, Johnny!’ John turns around: ‘What? Lemar?’ he exclaims as he sees his friend Lemar Hoskins wearing a familiar costume. ‘Not in these threads, pal. Call me Bucky!’ Lemar declares, standing in the blue and red costume, he asks Walker ‘How do I look?’ John points out that no one will ever mistake him for the original, but he looks pretty snazzy.
A woman approaches the new Bucky and looking at her watch exclaims ‘Mr Hoskins, might I remind you -’ but Lemar tells Walker that he has to run otherwise he will be late for remedial English. ‘See ya at combat sim!’ he calls out. John continues on, entering a large training room, an elderly soldier looks at his watch and exclaims ‘Yer a minute late, soldier. That’ll be an extra 600 squat thrusts at the end of the session!’ Walker apologizes, but the soldier tells him that he is not interested in his excuses. ‘I wasn’t going to give you any, sir’ Walker replies.
‘Oh, shut up. Atten-hutt!’ the soldier barks, causing Walker to stand stiff and salute him. The soldier tells him to stand at ease, before pointing out that they have been going over this same exercise all week. ‘Do I gotta explain it to ya?’ he asks. ‘No, sir’ Walker replies, to which the soldier tells him to get out there, as he wants to see him work. John stands in the middle of a circle, outlined by a few make-shift walls, each with a robotic “person” behind them. The elderly soldier stands behind a control booth, and tells Walker to go easy on the dummies this time, as it took maintenance al night to repair yesterday’s slip-ups. ‘Yer job is to disarm them - not to send ‘em to dummy heaven!’ he shouts.
Walker replies that he understands, while in the control booth, the officer mutters ‘Understand my foot…’ before pressing a button. Walker spins around, and blocks the gunfire of the first dummy, while telling himself that Sgt Simmons is getting a bit predictable, as he always starts with the dummy behind him. Simmons presses another button, and Walker throws the shield at another dummy. ‘Blast! I got it to spin off upon impact, but the ricochet’s going wild. I’ve got to shag after it!’ John tells himself. He leaps after the shield, though another dummy fires at him. ‘Ulp! I felt those!’ John tells himself as the weapons fire skim him.
Johnny grabs the shield, and tells himself to get out of the firing line. He tosses the shield at one of the gun-wielding dummies, tearing its arm off, though he didn’t mean to. John tells himself to throw the shield with less force, realizing that it does not need all of his augmented strength behind it - he throws it at another dummy, and this time, it just knocks the weapon from the dummy’s hand. ‘There! I did it! That throw was just right!’ he tells himself. Suddenly, one of the dummy’s fires at Walker - striking him in the back. ‘Blast! I hate getting nailed - even by rubber bullets!’ Walker exclaims as he spins around and slices off the dummy’s head with the shield.
Fifteen minutes later, Sgt Simmons emerges from the control booth and calling Walker a “big blue bozo” he tells him that playtime is over, seeing as how he dismantled all of his playmates yet again. ‘Uh, sorry, sir’ Walker replies. Sgt Simmons tells Walker that if this training session was real, he would have killed or grievously injured 17 people, and died three times himself. ‘Yes, sir’ Walker replies. Sgt Simmons remarks that at least John is improving, as yesterday he killed 23 people and died five times. ‘You gotta learn to watch that strength of yours, kid. You keep throwing the shield harder than you have to’ Sgt Simmons declares. ‘Yes, sir’ Walker replies, before Simmons dismisses him. John grabs the shield and tries to press it together, telling himself that he wishes he could crunch it into a paperweight!
Later, during lunch hour, members of Freedom Force are sitting at a table in the cafeteria. Blob, Avalanche and Pyro sit together, while Mystique and Destiny sit at the other end of the table from them. As Walker makes his way to his own table, the Blob suddenly calls out to him: ‘Yoo-hoo, Captain…someone stuck a serving tray on your back!’ Blob jokes, referring to the shield, causing Pyro to laugh. ‘Cute, Blob, real cute’ Walker replies as he carries on to his table.
Blob sees Lemar, and calls out to him, doing a mock-whistle, ‘Get a load o’ them red tights!’ Blob exclaims. ‘Buck-buck-buck-Bucky has chicken legs!’ Pyro jokes. ‘Why, you stinkin -’ Lemar exclaims as he spins around, but Walker tells him to cool it, as Freedom Force are just trying to get a rise out of him. Lemar sits down across from Walker and asks ‘What’s those creeps’ problem, anyway?’ Walker supposes that they probably feel threatened with the two of them around, and figure that if they can provoke them, it will make them look bad. ‘Can’t believe the feds would have anything to do with those mutie crooks’ Lemar exclaims.
‘Ex-crooks, they say. Well, maybe once we get combat-worthy, they’ll be sent on a suicide mission’ Walker remarks. ‘Yeah. Once we’re set to boogie, those guys’ll be fifth wheels’ Lemar declares, eating his food. Suddenly, Valerie approaches the men. ‘Captain, a word with you’ she remarks to Walker. ‘Yes, Miss Cooper?’ Walker asks. ‘Your former…associate, Mr Thurm, has been harassing my office with phone calls, demanding to see you’ Valerie reveals, adding that she can only assume he got her number from him. Valerie announces that she told Thurm that in no uncertain terms that if he calls one more time he will be up to his neck in government heat, and warns Walker to be more careful in the future. ‘Yes, Ma’am’ Walker replies as Valerie leaves.
‘Blast that Ethan! I never gave him her number. He must have copied it from where I had it written down’ Walker exclaims. Lemar supposes that Ethan and the others are still mad with them for leaving them to enlist here. Walker agrees, and declares that if he knows Ethan, then Ethan will keep up the calls, just to make the two of them look bad.
That afternoon, in another training room, Sgt Simmons stands in a control booth up above the room, while Walker and Lemar are on the training room floor, along with four men clad in green costumes. ‘Okay, “heroes”, listen up. We got ya some new sparring partners, and a new training exercise for ya to amuse yourselves with’ Simmons shouts, explaining that their four opponents are the Guardsmen cadets that they may have seen being trained elsewhere in the compound. Sgt Simmons explains that the exercise is called “capture the flag” and that they have to get through the Guardsman, nab the flag and get back to the safety zone.
Sgt Simmons asks if there are any questions, so Walker asks what exactly the Guardsman’s body armor does. ‘You’ll find out soon enough. You don’t expect your enemies to brief you before you tackle ‘em, do ya?’ Sgt Simmons replies. He tells Walker and Hoskins that he doesn’t expect them to win this one, just to stay alert and come out in one piece. ‘Uh-oh’ Lemar mutters to John. ‘The Sarge really inspires confidence, doesn’t he’ Walker jokes, to which Lemar exclaims ‘We’ll show him. Let’s whup ‘em, John - I mean, Cap!’
‘Let’s go!’ Johnny exclaims as he rushes forward. The Guardsmen run to him, and one of them lashes out with some sort of ray-blast, but John ducks behind his shield for cover. ‘Whoa, nelly!’ Bucky exclaims as he leaps over a blast from another of the Guardsmen, and Johnny ducks as one attempts to punch him. Without looking, John reaches up and smashes his shield into another of the Guardsmen whom he heard approaching thanks to the boot-jets the Guardsmen wear.
‘No fair! I got two of ‘em on my tail - and I don’t even have a shield!’ Bucky thinks to himself as two of the Guardsmen fire at him. He tells himself to try something, and leaps onto one of the beams set up in the training room - and then leaps onto the Guardsman, where he begins to thump on the Guardsman’s helmet. John calls out to Bucky, telling him to hang on and he will get him down. Johnny throws his shield, which smacks into the Guardsman’s stomach, and Lemar is thrown from the Guardsman, although another of the Guardsman lashes out with an energy beam, attacking Lemar. Walker takes cover behind a makeshift wall, ‘Blast! Nailed him, but I can’t recover my shield’. Suddenly, Walker is overwhelmed by a burst of energy from one of the Guardsmen.
Soon, the Guardsmen trainer tells them that it took them twelve minutes to neutralize Captain America and Bucky, and that they have a lot of work ahead of them if they are hoping to graduate. Sgt Simmons approaches Walker and Hoskins and exclaims ‘Not too bad, boys. You lasted a whole twelve minutes against US regulation armor!’ ‘Yeah’ mutters Lemar, clutching his arm.
Soon, walking into the locker room, Walker exclaims that they were pathetic, and that Sgt Simmons pats them on the head. But Lemar tells his friend that he is too hard on himself. ‘I doubt the original Cap and Bucky could do much better’ he points out. ‘Then you haven’t seen the training films. We’ve really got to get it together, Lem. Or we’re not going to last one minute out in the real world!’ Walker exclaims, before announcing that he is going to make a phone call.
Standing at the phone, Johnny tells Ethan that he cannot come and talk to him in person, explaining that he is not allowed off base - ‘You’ll do what? Ethan, you’ll be in more trouble than you can imagine if you so much as open your mouth to the press’ Walker warns his former manager, before telling him that he will meet him at midnight at the Sand Bar, exit 22 off Interstate 95.
At eleven PM that night, in the barracks, John is getting dressed, when Lemar gets out of his bed and exclaims ‘Hey, look, Johnny - if you’re really gonna go through with this, I’m going with you’. But John tells his friend that there is no need for both of them to risk getting booted out of boot camp for going absent without leave. Lemar sits on the side of his bed and exclaims ‘Come on, man! They boot you out, think I’d hang around? We’re a team, man! We stick together!’ John agrees and tells Lemar to hurry up, as they have a big run ahead of them.
An hour and five minutes later, inside the Sand Bar, Ethan Thurm tells Walker and Lemar that he is disappointed in them, taking off like they did, leaving him high and dry. The three are sitting in a booth with Hector Lennox. ‘And when I think od all the money and time and yes - love, that I invested in you, I just have to ask myself “Do I deserve the shaft I got”?’ Ethan exclaims. But Walker tells him that there was nothing he could do about it. ‘Your own dubious background made it impossible for the government to hire you as a consultant’ Walker explains. ‘So you told me’ Ethan mutters.
Thurm tips his hat and declares that he had a thought - and wonders what it is worth to the feds to keep him silent about who Walker is. ‘Do they want the public to know you’re not the real McCap? I think not’ Ethan exclaims, announcing that it would not take much to keep him from calling the National Inquirer. ‘Say a million bucks…’. This causes Johnny to lean over the table and grab Ethan by his tie, pulling Ethan towards him, John shakes his fist and exclaims ‘You’d dare blackmail Uncle Sam?’ before Lemar tells his friend to chill out.
Thurm declares that a million is chicken-feed for the Defense Department, and exclaims that they probably pay more for toilet paper ever year. Walker and Lemar get up out of the booth as Ethan tells Walker that he owes him. ‘I found you. I would have made a nice chunk of change as your manager. I can’t take that loss lightly’ he declares, before suggesting that Walker tell whoever he needs to tell to get back to him by noon Friday, otherwise his secret identity will be in the Sunday papers. ‘Let’s go, John. The stink in here’s getting to me’ Lemar exclaims.
Walking away from the Sand Bar, Lemar asks John if he thinks the feds would really care if Ethan blabbed about him to the press. ‘Yes!’ Johnny exclaims. ‘They’ve gone to a great deal of effort to teach me to act, move and talk like the original Cap. They don’t want the public to know I’m a replacement until after I’ve proven myself’ Walker explains, before regretting that he ever told Ethan anything. ‘I should’ve just up and vanished one day’ he realizes, before announcing that the thought of having to tell Valerie about this really galls him.
Lemar stops John and tells him to wait a minute. ‘You don’t have to tell her. Why don’t we just go stomp Ethan good, and make sure he can’t squeal?’ Lemar suggests. ‘You mean -?’ Johnny gasps, before telling Lemar that they cannot, for if they did that, they would have to lean on Ethan’s bodyguards, Jerome and Hector, and those guys are their friends. ‘Besides, we don’t dare do anything that might jeopardize our careers…’ he exclaims. ‘Okay, John. You’re the boss’ Lemar replies.
The next day, John and Lemar are in their costumes and walk down a corridor, with Lemar remarking that John seems kinda stony this morning, and asks him if he is worrying about Ethan. ‘Yes…’ Walker replies, explaining that he was up all night going over their options. ‘I finally came to the conclusion. You were right’ John announces. ‘I was?’ Ethan asks, surprised. Passing the armory, John declares that they will have to do something about Ethan themselves.
Inside the armory, they see several Guardsmen suiting up, and John turns back to Ethan, telling him that it comes down to this: ‘Is Captain America the kind of hero who would foist his problems off onto someone else to solve? No, he’s not. He’d handle his own problems himself - as a point of honor’ John declares. Johnny continues, ‘Well, I’m Captain America now, and I’ve got to live up to the highest code of honor that I can’ he exclaims. ‘Sure, whatever you say’ Lemar replies, telling John that he will talk to him later, as he has a civics class now. As he turns to leave, Lemar thinks to himself ‘Wow, he’s really getting into this role deep’.
Soon, Walker salutes Sgt Simmons in the training room. ‘At ease, chowder-head. I got some good news for ya today. We found someone to tutor ya on tossing that oversized Frisbee of yours’ Sgt Simmons announces. ‘Sir?’ Walker asks. John asks. Sgt Simmons moves into the control booth, and another figure steps forward. ‘Captain, this refugee from a Halloween party calls himself the Taskmaster. You probably ain’t heard of him, but he made himself a rep teaching dumb crooks the tricks of the trade’. Simmons explains that the FBI caught up with the Taskmaster a few months back, and he is getting a few years lopped off his sentence if he helps Walker get up to sped.
‘What a garish outfit. Who’s this guy think he is?’ John wonders, before exclaiming ‘If you don’t mind my asking, Taskmaster, what are your qualifications for teaching?’ The Taskmaster turns to Walker and replies that he was born with a skill he calls “photographic reflexes” - meaning any physical feat he sees, even once, his body automatically knows how to do it. ‘But other than that, you’re just an athlete with normal human strength?’ Johnny asks. ‘Yeah. What’s it to ya?’ Taskmaster retorts.
John asks the Taskmaster if he would mind giving him a demonstration, to which the Taskmaster exclaims ‘Thought ya’d never ask, Flagman’ and tears off his cloak, throwing it at John, which covers him. ‘Hit it, sarge’ the Taskmaster calls out to Simmons. The dummies come to life, and the Taskmaster begins to demonstrate how easily he can take them out, while throwing his own shield and displaying his acrobatic skills. ‘Not bad for “normal human strength”, huh?’ the Taskmaster asks Walker.
Sgt Simmons walks out of the control booth: ‘Will ya look at that! All six dummies disarmed without breaking a single one! And he did it in twenty seconds!’ Walker looks pensive and decides that the Taskmaster is good, and that he moved a lot like the old Cap did in those old films. He tells himself that the question is, considering his background, will he try to “mis-train” him to make him easy prey to criminals. ‘I’ll have to watch out for that’ Walker tells himself, while Sgt Simmons barks ‘Don’t just stand there - get to it!’ ‘Yes sir!’ Walker exclaims as he approaches the Taskmaster.
The Taskmaster tells Walker that he has identified and isolated eighteen katas - practiced series of movements - that Cap does with his shield. ‘Let’s start with the first movement of his easiest one’ he begins. ‘You heard him, Winghead - get moving!’ Sgt Simmons barks. Walker begins copying the movements that Taskmaster demonstrates, and for the next two hours, the Taskmaster makes the new Captain America repeat the twelve individual movements of the first kata over and over, correcting his stance, his shift of weight, his range of motion.
Finally, at the sessions end, the student has mastered the first and easiest of eighteen lessons. A soldier enters the training room and tells the Taskmaster that it is time to return to the lock-up. The Taskmaster is placed in clamps as he tells Walker that he better practice, as the next kata makes this one look like a cakewalk. ‘He really taught me something! I can’t get over it!’ Walker thinks to himself, before asking Sgt Simmons if it is really necessary to manacle the Taskmaster like that. ‘Don’t fool yerself, Cappy. Te man’s dangerous. We were lucky to nab him once’ Simmons replies, while Johnny wonders why a man as gifted as the Taskmaster would want to squander his talent in crime.
Later, Walker approaches Bucky in the cafeteria. ‘There you are J - Cap. Thought they put you on some weird diet and you weren’t gonna show’ Lemar exclaims, while Walker announces that he called Ethan and set up another meeting for tonight. ‘Oh, yeah -?’ Lemar asks. Walker clenches his fist and tells his friend that he came up with a plan to shut Ethan up for good, without him or anyone else knowing it was them. ‘Let’s hear it, pal!’ Lemar exclaims.
Later that night, wearing plan black spandex, Walker and Lemar enter the armory. ‘See if you can find one of these suits in your size’ Walker exclaims as they begin to put on the Guardsmen armor. Soon, ‘Coast clear?’ Walker asks as Lemar peers around the corner. ‘Clear’ Lemar replies. ‘Let’s roll!’ Walker exclaims as he leads the way out of the armory. Lemar tells himself that it is hard to believe that it is Johnny inside the armor, the way the helmet-speakers sound. They make their way out of the compound, while one of them thinks that they are not sure how to make the most of the gizmos, and supposes that they better not mess with the boot-jets until they get off base and can practice.
Later, at the Sand Bar, Ethan sits in a booth with Hector Lennox and Jerome Johnson and remarks that when “Honest John” lays the million on them, they will pay off a few debts, and have more than enough to - he doesn’t get to finish announcing what he wants to do with the money, as Jerome asks ‘Hey, where is dat bum, anyway? Didn’t he say he’d be here by - now?’ he exclaims as John and Lemar, in the Guardsmen armor, crash into the Sand Bar. ‘Holee!’ one of the Sand Bar patrons gasps.
Johnny goes up behind Lemar and grabs him from behind, pulling him from the booth, he exclaims ‘Ethan Thurm, I am Guardsman XL5 of the US Armor Corp. I wish to have words with you’. ‘HALLLP!’ Ethan shrieks, calling to Hector and Jerome, asking them to save him. Lemar approaches them and tells them not to try anything if they know what is good for them. ‘Oh, I won’t try nothing…’ Jerome begins - ‘Like fun I won’t!’ he exclaims as he lunges at Lemar in the Guardsman armor, punching his helmet. Jerome tells himself that his augmented strength outghta make scrap metal out of this third-rate Iron Man.
Lemar tells himself that he must hold back as much as he can, as he punches Jerome in the face - before throwing him into Hector, knocking both of them back. ‘Let me outta here!’ a patron exclaims, rushing for safety. Lemar reminds himself that Hector and Jerry are his friends, that he does not want to hurt them, just keep them out of the way. Outside the Sand Bar, people are running for their lives. ‘Who in blazes are those armored dudes?’ someone asks. ‘Thought I heard ‘em say army’ another exclaims. ‘Help!’ someone shouts.
Walker grabs Ethan by his tie and pushes him up against a wall. ‘I’m only going to tell you this once, Mr Thurm. The identity of the new Captain America is a matter of national security. If word leaks out, we’ll know it’s your fault - and there’ll be nowhere on Earth to hide from us. Do you know how long we put people away for treason?’ Thurm looks very worried, and sweat begins to drip down his face.
Suddenly, ‘Yeooow!’ Hector shouts as he is thrown through the outer wall of the Sand Bar. Walker turns and sees him, and realizes that Lemar must have had to get rough with them. He tells Thurm not to go away, and looks through the gaping hole in the wall, where he sees that Lemar is in trouble, as Jerome is beating him badly. ‘These suits may enhance our strength, but fighting in them takes some getting used to’ Walker tells himself as he sees that Jerome is really letting Lemar have it. ‘I’m not worried about Lem - I know he can take the punishment - but if we bring this armor back damaged, we’ll have really blown it’ Walker tells himself, before deciding that he better pull Jerome off.
But as Walker moves towards Jerome, he fires a blast at him, sending Jerome careening across the room. ‘Oh, no! I must have accidentally activated the hand-blaster!’ Jerome comes to a stop, slumped over the bar. ‘Jerome -?’ Walker calls out. ‘Gee, you didn’t have to do that’ Lemar exclaims. ‘I know! I didn’t mean to’ Walker replies, before they both exit the Sand Bar. ‘Should we haul him to a hospital or something?’ Lemar asks. But Walker replies that is too risky, and that there are enough eyewitnesses as it is. ‘Ethan and Hector can help him. We’d better get back to the base before the police show up!’ he exclaims
The next morning, John sits in a room, and tells himself that he feels terrible. ‘Why oh why didn’t we take a few nights to familiarize ourselves with the armor before taking off with it?’ he wonders, reminding himself that he wanted to handle the problem by himself, just like the original Captain America would, only he blew it. ‘Would Cap really have disguised himself as someone else? Maybe. Would he have made threats? Destroyed property? Probably not. Injured a civilian? Definitely not. Well, if I’m lucky Jerome will be okay and Ethan will lay off’ Johnny tells himself.
Suddenly, Valerie enters, wearing a slinky purple dress, she informs Walker that she would like to talk to him about some incidents that occurred last night - namely a break-in at the armory, and a fight at an area tavern. Walker looks at Valerie, and thinks to himself ‘She suspects me! What do I do now? If I own up to what I did, she may boot me out of the program. Maybe…she doesn’t suspect me. If I were to lie…no! I must think…what could Cap do in this situation?’ he wonders, before gritting his teeth and looking Valerie in the eye, he declares ‘Er, Ma’am…I took that armor and wrecked that tavern…’.