Late summer, fifteen miles from the North Pole, the anarchist known as the Flag-Smasher zooms above the snow-covered terrain on his rocket-skis, while being pursued by two of his own agents, who begin shooting at him from their own rocket-skis. ‘Surrender, Flag-Smasher! Surrender, or we’ll have no choice but to kill you!’ one of the agents warns Flag-Smasher. Dodging the weapons fire, Flag-Smasher shouts ‘You fools! I am the leader - the founder - of ULTIMATUM! You have no authority to pursue me like this! Turn back at once!’, but his order goes unheeded. ‘You’re no longer our leader Flag-Smasher - not after what you tried to do!’ one of the agents replies as both fire their weapons at the same time. Flag-Smasher still manages to dodge their attack, ‘I can explain that - if you’ll just -’ he begins, before carrying on through the air, deciding that they will never understand, not if he has pegged the identity of ULTIMATUM’s true founder and financial backer correctly.
Flag-Smasher reaches back and fires his pistol, but it is primitive compared to the agents’ plasma-blasters. One of the agents sees Flag-Smasher duck down behind an ledge of snow, and alerts the other who exclaims ‘Not for long!’ as he fires his plasma-blaster at the other side of the ledge, hoping to strike Flag-Smasher when he emerges - but he misses. Flag-Smasher moves himself back upwards to wards the agents, deciding that he must manuever between them, for then they won’t be able to fire at him for fear of hitting one another. As he makes his way between them, Flag-Smasher realizes that they are still firing at him. He knows that he has three minutes before the plasma-blaster cools down, and decides that it is time for some fancy air-skiing.
Flag-Smasher flips backwards, and one of the agents wonders what he is doing, realizing that Flag-Smasher is trying to get behind him. ‘We’ll see about that’ the agent exclaims as he fires his weapon - but Flag-Smasher it already out of range, and the plasma blast strikes the other agent, hitting his fuel supply. ‘Krantz! You stupid -’ the other agent shouts, but an instant later, the fuel, supply explodes. ‘Oh, no - I -’ Krantz gasps, before deciding to blame the other agent’s death on Flag-Smasher, but looking around, he cannot see Flag-Smasher anywhere, until suddenly, ‘Looking for me?’ Flag-Smasher asks as he drops down and fires at Krantz, close range, causing him to lose balance from his skis and fall to the snow below.
Flag-Smasher lands down beside the fallen agent and knowing that he has a long journey ahead of him, takes the agent’s snow-gear, fuel tank and blaster. When he removes the armor, Flag-Smasher sees that it was Vladimir Krantz who was sent after him, and recalls that he was a good agent. Flag-Smasher puts the armor on, deciding that there is no time for sentimentality, not if he hopes to escape. He turns his attention north, and takes to the sky once more on his skis, recalling that there is a scientific outpost about twenty-five kilometers south west of here, and that he might be able to make it there before nightfall if ULTIMATUM has given up its pursuit of him. ‘And if not, I will simply have to deal with them as I have the first two. I cannot allow anything to stop me. It’s not only a matter of world security - but also of my honor as an anti-patriot!’ Flag Smasher thinks to himself.
Meantime, in Washington DC, in the dimly-lit assembly chambers of the governmental Commission on Superhuman Activity. The members of the Commission are seated at their respective places around the horse-show table, while a spotlight pours down on the center of the floor before them, where John Walker a.k.a. Captain America stands. Douglas Rockwell, the Head Commissioner, addresses Walker, telling him that when they appointed him the new Captain America, they had every confidence in him. ‘But from the time you underwent basic training - you’ve shown certain lapses in judgment. We kept hoping the problem would clear itself up, but it has only gotten worse’ Rockwell states.
Rockwell adds that the dust has barely settled from the Watchdogs incident in Georgia, an affair that Walker should not have been involved with in the first place. He declares that now they have reason to believe Walker was in a fracas on a Texas oil field that resulted in an explosion that left two men critically injured to say nothing of the property damage incurred. ‘Well, what do you have to say for yourself?’ Rockwell asks. Walker confirms that he was present, and explains that those two men are old enemies of his, and that matters got out of hand. Adrian Sammish reminds everyone that they replaced the original Captain America because he couldn’t obey orders. ‘When we hired you we thought you could’ he states, before pointing out that now half the time Walker is running wild, and the Commission is forced to cover up for his excesses.
Raymond Sikorsky suggests that they get to the point, and informs Walker that the opinion of the Commission is that he is just too wild to be of any use to them anymore. Rockwell grimaces and informs Walker that they took a vote, and that the majority of them voted to suspend him, permanently, and explains that this time he will be under detention pending an investigation of possible criminal acts. ‘Kindly turn yourself into the Guardsmen waiting outside’ Rockwell barks. But when Walker offers no response, Rockwell shouts ‘Are you following all this, Mr Walker?’, to which Johnny frowns and replies ‘Yes’.
Just then, ‘Helloooo!’ a voice calls out, as the President of the United States enters the chamber. Captain America turns to him, while some of the Commission get up from their seats. ‘Mr President…this is…unexpected’ Rockwell remarks. The President explains that seeing how he is going to be stepping down in January, he thought he would take the opportunity to drop by and meet the new Captain America while he still has the chance. The President smiles as he shakes Captain America’s hand, telling him that he is pleased to meet him, and that he knows it is a hard job he has to do. The Commission gather on the floor, and the President turns to Rockwell, telling him that there is something he has been meaning to ask him and his fellow appointees. ‘Uh…yes?’ Rockwell asks, before the President enquires as to why he was not informed about the replacement of the original Cap.
Rockwell hesitates, before informing the President that when he granted the Commission its discretionary powers he thought that he did not want to be burdened with the details of their functions. The President frowns and replies ‘Don’t you think that something as noteworthy as the substitution of our nation’s premier super hero warranted my attention?’, adding that Rockwell would not believe the mail the White House has received since the change in appointment was announced. ‘Half the people wish the new man well, the other demands to know more about what happened to the original!’ the President reveals, before asking what did happen to Steve Rogers.
‘We had to fire him, Sir’ Rockwell replies, explaining that in the judgment of the Commission, Rogers could not longer do the job required of him. ‘I see. So where is he now?’ the President enquires. Sikorsky announces ’Actually, Sir, he’s currently being held for questioning in connection with the assault on you’. The President smiles and asks ’You mean the night of the snake riot?’, before explaining that his memory of that night is a little vague, but the one thing he does recall is that a masked man saved his life. ’If that was Steve Rogers, he should be given a medal - not imprisonment!’ he adds, before asking what he can do to expedite his release.
The members of the Commission smile, and Sikorsky announces that they will take it from here. ‘Good, good. I hate to see an old soldier like him being treated shoddily. Carry on, gentlemen’ the President declares as he turns to leave. On his way out, he stops to talk to Walker, telling him that he expects to hear great things from him., ‘It is a proud tradition you are upholding’ he adds. ‘I know, Sir’ Walker replies. The President leaves the chamber, and the Commission fall silent. ‘Now what?’ Dr Valerie Cooper asks her fellow Commissioners. Sammish declares that one thing is for certain, that they had better release Rogers. George Mathers then asks ‘What about Walker? If we cut him loose now, we’ll have a lot of explaining to do’ he points out. Sikorsky suggests that they keep him on ice until January, at that time there will be a new administration. ‘They can tell us whether or not to indict him’ Sikorsky adds. Frowning, Rockwell announces that he will inform Walker.
Back in the Arctic, Flag-Smasher approaches a research station, and using the plasma-blaster, creates an entrance way, confident that he slid under the station’s radar, but still does not care to give the opportunity to prepare for his arrival. And soon, further in the station, Flag-Smasher confronts some of the station workers, announcing that he has commandeered this facility. He orders the workers to direct him to the communications room, ‘Or else I will remove your comrade’s head as easily as I removed your door’ Flag-Smasher warns them. ‘That way…’ one of them utters, pointing towards the communications room. Entering it, Flag-Smasher holds his mace to the face of one of the officers, ordering him to transmit a message to the United States at once. ‘Make it read: “Captain America. I need your help…”!’ Flag-Smasher states.
Some time later, in Washington, Rockwell is in his private office, and sitting at his desk, speaks over the phone to a man hidden in shadows on a monitor. ‘Good news and bad news to report, Sir’ Rockwell announces. ‘Are you playing games with me, Rockwell?’ comes the reply. ‘No, Sir!’ Rockwell exclaims, adding that it was the President, that he walked into today’s meeting unannounced, and more or less overturned the majority decision to drop Walker as Captain America. ‘Good’ Rockwell’s mysterious superior replies, adding that it is important that Walker be free to besmirch the image of Captain America. ‘I take it that is the good news’ he adds, before asking what is the bad.
Rockwell rubs his sweating forehead with a cloth and announces that the President strongly urged them to drop their investigation of Steve Rogers and release him as soon as possible. ‘And have you?’ asks the man shrouded in red. ‘Not yet, Sir. But I don’t know of any way not to comply without my fellow Commissioners getting suspicious of me’ he explains. The mysterious man orders Rockwell to release Steve Rogers, but to plant a bug on him so that they know his whereabouts at all times. ‘Then you don’t want him killed?’ Rockwell asks, confused. ‘Of course not! The dead are of little use to -’ he begins to reply, when suddenly there is a knock at Rockwell’s door. Rockwell urgently tells his superior that he has company and will call him back, before hanging up and pressing a button to hide the monitor.
Valerie Cooper enters Rockwell’s office as Rockwell stands up. ‘What’s -’ he begins, to which Val informs him that they have just received a dispatch from an Arctic scientific outpost. She announces that it has been occupied by the anarchist who calls himself Flag-Smasher. The glamorous Valerie informs Rockwell that Flag-Smasher demands to see Captain America personally in exchange for the release of the thirteen scientists stationed there. ‘What should we do? Who do we send?’ Valerie asks, deferring to the Head Commissioner. ‘Who else do we have but Walker?’ Rockwell asks, muttering that maybe if they are lucky, Walker will get himself killed and save them a whole lot of trouble.
Elsewhere, Steve Rogers a.k.a. the Captain lies in cell, the shadows of the cell bars reflecting over him. Arms behind his head, Rogers tells himself that he doesn’t understand himself sometimes. ‘How did I let myself get into this predicament?’ he wonders. Steve tells himself that he as always been a fighter so why was he quick to back down from the Commission over his right to be Captain America? He supposes that with a lawyer, a few character witnesses, public sentiment and maybe even the President on his sid,e he could have easily won. He wonders if he backed down from that simply because it is not his kind of fight, and realizes that it is now mighty clear to him that the Commission is violating his constitutional rights holding him here without charging him with anything or letting him see an attorney. ‘Maybe what they’ve been doing to me has been illegal from the start as certain of my friends have suggested’ Steve tells himself.
Frowning, thoughts continue to flow through Steve’s head, wondering why he didn’t try to determine who were his enemies in the government were, and why did he just walk away without a fight? He wonders if it could be that he subconsciously wanted to break from his responsibilities from being Cap, but reminds himself that he is no shirker. ‘Or maybe subconsciously I needed a challenge - maybe I wanted to test myself’ Steve decides, adding that ever since his bout with the Super-Patriot ended in a draw, he has been concerned that he has been losing his edge.
Suddenly, there is a loud BOOM, and the Captain leaps up from the bed where he lies. ‘That noise in the distance - an explosion? What could it -?’ he wonders, when suddenly the lights go out and he is plunged into darkness, deciding that the power must have been affected. He pulls his mask down over his face and tells himself that he has had it with this inactivity, with this illegal incarceration. ‘If throwing obstacles in my own way has indeed been my subconscious way of toughening myself up, trying to regain my edge - enough’s enough’ he decides. ‘This situation has gotten tiresome! It’s time for this old soldier to fight!’.
But the Captain knows that in order to fight, he has to first get out of his cell - only when he grabs the cell door, he discovers that it is open. ‘A convenient power outage or a trap? A set-up?’ Steve wonders, before realizing that it doesn’t matter as he will take it any way it comes. He leaves the cell and decides that his first job is to see if his friend D-Man is locked up here as he was led to believe, but as he walks past the cells, he finds them all empty, as if no one else has been here - but when he comes across his shield lying nearby, Steve knows that this is a set-up.
Later, aboard a US Air Force jet, Walker and his fighting partner, Lemar Hoskins a.k.a. Battlestar are reviewing files. ‘So this Flag-Smasher was an enemy of the old guy, huh?’ Battlestar remarks, before wondering if Flag-Smasher knows that Walker replaced the original Cap. ‘Anyway, let’s see what his dossier says’ Lemar tells Johnny, who just sits with his arms folded and offers no response. Lemar reads that Flag-Smasher is the head of the terrorist group ULTIMATUM that is trying to promote world unity by attacking all governments. ‘Sounds like a total nutcase, huh?’ Lemar remarks, informing Walker that Flag-Smasher and his gang hijacked a plane a while back and held the passengers hostage until the old Cap got there. ‘Wow, that old duff actually had to use a gun to free the hostages’ Battlestar remarks, surprised.
Lemar continues reading through the file, informing Walker that the old Cap caught up with Flag-Smasher in the Alps and took him into custody, where Flag-Smasher’s agents broke Flag-Smasher out of SHIELD a few months back. ‘SHIELD’s that worldwide spy group, right?’ Lemar asks, before holding up a photo of Flag-Smasher holding his mace. ‘Ha! Looks like he doesn’t like having his picture taken’ Lemar remarks. ‘In that outfit, I can’t blame him’ LKemar jokes. ‘Nice cape. Don’t think this bozo will be much trouble! How about you, Johnny? Johnny?’ Lemar calls out to his friend, but he gets no response. Lemar frowns and realizes that Johnny is in rough shape. ‘I thought he’d get over his folks deaths, but he’s just getting worse. He wouldn’t even tell me what went down in the meeting he had with the Commission!’ Lemar thinks to himself, worried for his friend, only he knows there doesn’t seem to be anything John will let him to do help.
Elsewhere, with his shield in hand, the Captain strides through the darkness, deciding that nothing seems to be amiss with his shield, but in this darkness he cannot tell for certain, although he is confident that it won’t explode on him. He makes his way up a flight of steps, with still no sign of D-Man or anyone else. ‘If the Commission is holding him, it’s apparently not here’ Steve tells himself, adding that, for a trap, it is about as exciting as melting ice. Opening a door, Steve finds himself outside, adding that if it is not a trap, but what it seems to be, is a power outage caused by whatever that explosion he hard - then what? What’s his next move.
Seeing that it is night time, Steve realizes that he lost track of precisely how long he had been held. ‘My luck - if luck it is - is holding’ he decides, before carefully making his way in between a series of parked military vehicles. He moves swiftly, while realizing that he didn’t see too much of this place when the armoured truck brought him here, but that he had it pegged as a military facility. Steve tells himself that the question is where this facility is, knowing that it took about two hours to get here from the Commission’s Washington DC offices. Steve wonders if it is Fort George M Meade in Maryland, and if so, knows that he has some hike ahead of him getting out of here.
The Arctic, where the military jet has arrived over the ice station. A pilot informs the ice station that they have arrived and are awaiting further instruction. ‘Air Force Seven, this is Flag-Smasher. I have you on radar. Do not land within ten kilcks from here. Have Captain America ‘chute down. Do you copy? Over’ Flag-Smasher replies through the radio communications system. Battlestar adjusts the parachute bag on Johnny’s back. ‘You go down there like the man wants. I’ll follow as soon as we’re where he won’t be able to detect another ‘chute’ Lemar tells Walker. ‘Go get him, partner!’ Battlestar adds, but Walker offers no response as he leaps from the jet, which continues flying away from the ice station. Walker lands some distance from the station, and after ditching the parachute, rushes towards the facility.
In silence, he finds the make-shift entrance that Flag-Smasher earlier created, and enters the facility. Making his way down a corridor, he comes to where Flag-Smasher is holding one of the scientists hostage. ‘Captain! Good to see you again. Now drop your weapon or I will use this snivelling scientist’s brains for pain!’ Flag-Smasher exclaims, his gun held to the man’s head. ‘No’ Captain America replies sternly. ‘No? What do you mean no? You know from previous encounters that I’m not above sacrificing a life to further the cause!’ Flag-Smasher remarks, adding that he knows that Captain America has an inflated regard for the value of every single human life. ‘So drop your shield at once’ Flag-Smasher orders. ‘Go ahead and kill him. You’ll join him in seconds’ Walker declares.
Flag-Smasher looks shocked, and he suddenly realizes that this is not Captain America. ‘You’re an impostor!’ he exclaims. The scientist looks even more concerned, but Flag-Smasher tosses him to one side, where he lands on the floor. Mace in hand, the anarchist marches towards Walker, declaring that he cannot believe the United States dared send an impostor. ‘Stinking government’s - can’t trust a one of them!’ he shouts, before asking Captain America ‘Who are you, impostor? What kind of trick does your insipid government think it is playing at?’ But John Walker replies that he is Captain America and that there is only one. Detaching his cape, Flag-Smasher lunges towards Walker, ‘Lying cretin!’ he shouts. ‘I do not have time for such foolishness! All of civilization is at stake!’ he boasts, before warning Captain America to prepare to die, and he leaps into the air, bringing his mace down hard - but Walker deflects it with his shield.
‘I…am…not…a…fake!’ Walker shouts, punching Flag-Smasher hard in the face. ‘You hit harder than the real Captain America, I’ll give you that’ Flag-Smasher remarks as he raises his knee, shoving it into Walker’s chin. This causes Walker to keel forward, and Flag-Smasher raises his mace overhead, demanding an answer. ‘Why did your government send a stand-in? Did they think I would not be able to tell?’ he asks. ‘Do they not take me seriously? Answer me, impostor, before I smash your skull open!’ Flag-Smasher warns Walker, only Walker suddenly moves upwards, ‘Shut! Up!’ he exclaims as he smashes his shield into Flag-Smasher’s face.
With Flag-Smasher stunned, Walker flips him over onto his back, slamming him hard into the ground. ‘Whoever this man is, he is a ferocious fighter - much less predictable than the original Captain. His strength appears to be many times that of his predecessor as well’ Flag-Smasher tells himself, before pushing upwards and hurling Walker overhead, where he slams into the wall. ‘No matter, my fighting style is superior to his - and his strength can simply be used against him’ Flag-Smasher tells himself. ‘Say your prayers, scum!’ Walker shouts as he gets up, and pushes forward, forcing himself and Flag-Smasher through the wall.
Flag-Smasher falls to the floor, and Walker begins to pummel his face. ‘I’ve a riddle for you, Flag-Smasher - what’s black and white - and red all over?’ Walker asks him, while Flag-Smasher tries to reach up to Walker’s arms, and grabs his triceps. ‘Give up?’ Walker asks when he gets no response from Flag-Smasher, only to realize that his opponent is doing something to him. ‘Over-confident fool! I let you pin me on purpose! All the better to let me energy-absorbing exoskeleton sap you of your strength!’ Flag-Smasher explains, as he uses Walker’s own strength, punching the hero backwards to the snow covered ground. Flag-Smasher gets to his feet and picks up his mace, boasting that he will use his newfound strength and the mace against Walker. ‘Savor the pain while it lasts. It is the last thing on this Earth you’ll ever feel!’ the anarchist calls out.
Suddenly, ‘Holy! That dude downed Johnny!’ Battlestar thinks to himself as he rushes towards Flag-Smasher. ‘Someone clad in red, white and blue? This clown’s partner?’ Flag-Smasher wonders as he sees Battlestar appear behind him. ‘Blast! Saw me before I could jump him!’ Lemar tells himself. Flag-Smasher leans down and holds the pistol to Walker’s head, shouting ‘One step closer and this man loses what little brain he had. Go ahead, see if I am joking’ he calls out. Battlestar passes, telling Flag-Smasher that it is his move. ‘So not only did Washington send and impostor, but a lackey, as well!’ Flag-Smasher declares.
The anarchist suggests to Battlestar that he tell his superiors to bring him the real Captain America, or else everyone at this facility, including the impostor, will be killed. ‘Hurry - there is not much time left! In 48 hours the world will be plunged into chaos, and it’s all because you stupid Americans could not deal straight with me. Now go!’ Flag-Smasher declares. Battlestar frowns and wonders what he should do, as he cannot rush Flag-Smasher without getting Johnny shot in the head. He supposes that he could pretend to go, then circle back and try to fake Flag-Smasher out, but decides that this mace-swinging madman is probably too cagey to let him get away with that, and wonders how he defeated Johnny anyway. ‘And what’s all this about world chaos?’ Battlestar asks himself, confused, deciding that he ought to do as Flag-Smasher says - go back to the US and get the original Cap.
The next morning, in Washington DC, Rockwell sits at his desk and observes a monitor which lights up with a homing signal. ‘Perfect, perfect, perfect! The homing transmitter we hid in the strap-rivet in Roger’s shield is working perfectly’ the old man thinks to himself, knowing that even though he is at large, they can monitor his whereabouts at all times. Suddenly, his phone rings. He presses the speaker-phone button, ‘Yes?’ he calls out, while someone informs hi that they have just received radio dispatch from Battlestar, who has told them that Walker has been captured and that Flag-Smasher will kill him if they don’t send the original Cap. Rockwell grins with delight and replies ‘Tell Battlestar he’s out of luck! Steve Rogers has flown the coop and there’s no telling where he is!’
But elsewhere in Washington, Steve is in a phone booth, and places the receiver of the phone into a computer in his briefcase, thankful that his portable hotline terminal was exactly where he hit it before he surrendered himself to the Commission, but regrets that he is not having much luck using it to determine if D-Man left word to his whereabouts. Examining the monitor, all Steve reads is incomprehensible gibberish. He frowns and decides that there is nothing wrong with this end of the system, and supposes that the fault must lie back in the main computer in Brooklyn Heights. Steve is at a loss without his data network, and knows that if there is some malfunction he had better attend to it at once, before wondering what the cheapest and least conspicuous way to get to Brooklyn Heights!?