Washington DC, yesterday afternoon…inside a large auditorium, the press community have come out in full to listen and film a very important occasion. Standing at a podium on stage is the glamorous Valerie cooper, Acting Chairperson of the Commission on Superhuman Activities. Standing at each of her sides are Captain America and…Captain America. Behind them, seated at a table, are Valerie’s colleague in the Commission, Raymond Sikorsky, and the partner of one of the Captain Americas, Lemar Hoskins a.k.a. Battlestar. Valerie introduces herself to those in attendance, and points out that they will have doubtless noticed there are two men standing beside her, both dressed in the uniform of the embodiment of the fighting spirit of their nation. ‘You’re probably wondering what this means. Well, that’s why we’ve called this press conference’ Valerie explains, uttering a little laugh, she clears her throat and tells herself that she is so nervous that she could die. ‘Why did Rockwell have to go leave me in charge of the Commission?’ Val wonders.
Continuing, Valerie explains that the man on her right is the original Captain America, appointed by Franklin Deland Roosevelt back in 1940. ‘Sure looks good for a sexagenarian, huh?’ Valerie remarks, while telling herself to can the ad-libs and stick to the script. Motioning to the bulkier man at her left, Val explains that he is the man the Commission chose to replace the original when a misunderstanding on the part of the Commission made it difficult for the original Cap and the Commission to work together. Valerie announces that the new Captain America would like to make a short statement. ‘Whew’ she thinks to herself as her speech comes to an end. John Walker a.k.a. the new Captain America thanks Valerie and steps to the podium. ‘My fellow Americans. It has been both an honor and a privilege to serve you these past months in such a prestigious capacity as Captain America’ Walker states.
Walker declares that he has given the role his best shot, but he has come to the conclusion that he is not as suited for the job as the American people deserve, and have a right to expect. ‘And so, now that the Commission has settled its differences with my predecessor, I’ve volunteered to step down and surrender the uniform and shield to its rightful possessor. The one and only original Star-Spangled Avenger!’ Walker announces. As he hands the mighty shield to Steve Rogers, cameras flash in a frenzy. Rogers thanks Walker as he takes the shield, while Walker continues, ‘Don’t worry though, I intend to find another way to serve his country. Once you get patriotism in your blood -’ he begins, when, shockingly, five bullets are shot into his chest, and John Walker falls backwards.
‘WALKER?’ Captain America exclaims. ‘Johnny!’ Battlestar gasps. Captain America orders Battlestar to see to Walker, and announces that he is going after the gunman. Battlestar leaps over the table and drops down beside his friend, while Sikorsky looks on, confused. At the rear of the room, someone in an orange and purple costume rushes out the door. ‘Somebody stop him!’ someone calls out. ‘He-he’s got a gun!’ another exclaims, while somebody points out that he is dressed like a Watchdog. ‘How’d he get in here?’ another asks. ‘Clear a path! Coming through!’ Captain America orders the press as he leaps off the stage in pursuit of the gunman. ‘Look at that leap!’ someone shouts, impressed.
Battlestar holds Walker up, ‘Hang on, man - an ambulance will be here any minute! You’re going to be okay!’ he tells his friend, while Sikorsky covers his mouth when he sees the blood pooling around Walker. The media suddenly gather around Captain America, ‘Do you have any idea who -’ one of them asks. ‘A word with -?’ another exclaims. ‘Would you please?’ a third asks, but Cap just orders them to get out of his way. The doors burst open, and he finds two bodies lying on the floor, both with gunshot wounds. He wonders which way, before hearing footsteps. ‘Everyone stay back, or you may be hurt!’ Captain America warns everyone as he rushes down the corridor, ‘You’re not going to get away, gunman! Bank on it!’ Cap calls out. The Watchdog agent just swears at Cap.
A security guard suddenly comes between the Watchdog agent and the exit, ‘Hold it right there or I’ll -’ he shouts, before receiving two bullets in his chest. The guard falls to the floor, and as Cap checks his pulse, discovers him that he is dead. ‘That’s another you’ll pay for, mister’ Cap thinks to himself. ‘Move it, fats!’ the Watchdog operative exclaims as he pushes a man out of the way. As Cap gets to the exit, he pushes the door open and wonders if the Watchdog has escaped, before seeing him rushing down the stairs at the front of the building. ‘He’s no match for me in the stamina department’ Cap tells himself. Observing the surrounding area, Cap realizes there are many bystanders, and knows he has to disarm the Watchdog quickly.
However, the Watchdog takes hold of a woman and aims his gun at her face. ’Okay, hero-man! Stay right where you are, or this check gets ventilated!’ the Watchdog exclaims. ’Nooo! Please!’ the woman begs, when, suddenly, a bullet is shot into the Watchdog’s head, and goes right out the other side. The woman runs to safety, while Cap stands at the top of the stairs, and a familiar man dressed all in white shouts ‘Justice is served, Watchdog!’ before rushing away, his gun still smoking. ‘That second gunman - he didn’t say what I thought he said, did he?’ Cap wonders, before realizing that the explosive bullet, the gun, and the slogan he shouted are all the earmarks of the Scourge of the Underworld. ‘But I thought he was dead!’ Cap recalls. ‘First the Red Skull, now Scourge! Are all my old enemies coming back to haunt me?’ he wonders, while watching Scourge leap into a car that speeds off, Cap decides he won’t be able to catch the car.
The title “Death of a Hero” appears on television screens all around the Unite States of America, on the current affairs show “Nightline”. Newsreader, Ted Koppel appears on screen and reports that Washington was rocked today by the assassination of Captain America. ‘Not the original, whose identity remains a closely guarded secret, but his erstwhile successor, a young man named John Walker’ Ted explains, adding that Walker had not had an easy time in the months since his appointment to the role, and that it was at the very press conference where he announced he was the designated replacement, was marred by assailants who revealed his true identity on national television.
Ted continues, stating that now, in Walker’s second publicized appearance, he was shot dead by an alleged member of the Watchdogs, a nationwide vigilante group. Images recorded at the shocking assassination are displayed on screen, before Ted announces that, joining them by live satellite link-up is the original Captain America, Chairman of the renowned Avengers, who has recently resumed the role of America’s Star-Spangled hero. ‘Captain, you were there at the scene. Do you think that the gunman intended to hit Walker, or could he have been aiming at you?’ Ted enquires. Frowning, Cap states that he believes Walker was the target. Cap reveals that Walker had several encountered with the Watchdog organization, the last of which left both his parents and several vigilantes dead. ‘I have yet to run into them’ Cap adds.
Ted asks Captain America if he thinks revenge might have been the motive,3that the gunman meant to avenge his fallen comrades, but Cap states that they may never know, explaining that the alleged murderer was himself shot to death by a still-unidentified assailant. Ted points out that moments before he was shot, Walker alluded to serving the nation in another capacity. ‘Do you have any idea what that was to be?’ he enquires. Cap replies that Walker had not discussed that with him, before Ted asks about Walker’s partner, Battlestar. ‘Do you plan on taking him under your wing, so to speak, in light of the tragedy?’ Ted asks. Cap reveals that he has worked with Battlestar on one occasion, but that at present there have been no discussions as to Battlestar’s future as his partner, or with the Avengers. Ted then thanks Captain America for his valuable time, and Cap ends the transmission.
Cap sits in his chair at a communications station, ‘Death…the ultimate theft of a man’s freedom. It’s been no stranger to me all these years…Dad, Mom, Bucky, Sharon, Dennis…but somehow it seems to be rearing its hoary head with greater frequency the longer I live’ Cap thinks to himself. He reminds himself that he didn’t know John Walker well, and much of what he did know he was outraged by. ‘But I would never have wished him dead…I would never have denied him his right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, even if his acts denied others theirs!’ he tells himself, wondering why it is that when a hero dies, it is for good, but the villains always come back? ‘Enough brooding’ Cap decides, knowing he has a lot of work to do if he wants to get the Avengers back on their feet. ‘I hardly know where to start’ he tells himself, deciding to scan the files and update himself with Avengers activities during the interval he was on leave.
Suddenly, Cap comes across a file he finds very interesting, which reads:
SHIELD directive 5019. 6-18-88.
From: Agent Jack Rollins
NSC Liaison H. Peter Gyrich
Nicholas Fury terminated as Director of SHIELD after evidence of treachery discovered. If Fury makes any attempt to contact Avengers, detain him and report it to SHIELD central at once. Fury armed and dangerous.
‘What’s this? I can’t believe it! Nick a traitor? I’ve got to check this out!’ Cap tells himself, but finds that SHIELD’s phone line has been disconnected. He proceeds to call some of the branch offices, but has no luck with them, either. He wonders what is going on, before realizing that he knows who to call, and ringing an operator, places a person to person call to Peggy Carter, in Roanoke, Virginia.
The next afternoon, across from SHIELD’s central headquarters building in midtown Manhattan, Steve Rogers is wearing a long brown trench coat as he sits across from Peggy Carter. Cap tells Peggy that it is great seeing her, and that he is embarrassed to think how long it has been since they have had time to chat. Peggy thinks that the last time they spoke was at her sister’s memorial service. ‘Yes…I guess it was’ Cap agrees. Cups of coffee in their hands, Peggy tells Cap not to dwell on that, as they have so much else to catch up on. ‘Yes. When you intimated on the phone last night that SHIELD was defunct, I could scarcely believe my ears’ Cap remarks, before announcing that he did some checking, and sitting in his in box was a copy of the United Nations resolution that dissolved the organization.
Cap asks Peggy what happened, pointing out that the UN document gave the what, but not the why of it. ‘What could possibly have prompted Nick Fury to dismantle the world’s foremost intelligence agency?’ Cap enquires. Peggy replies that she thinks only Nick, Dum Dum and perhaps Gabe know the answer to that, for all she knows is that every single SHIELD operative was given a pink slip and a hefty severance check. Peggy announces that the rumor is, something big happened aboard the SHIELD satellite, something involving the board of directors itself. She adds that the other thing she heard is that almost a third of SHIELD’s rank and file perished on the satellite, including some agents she had worked with quite closely. ‘More death!’ Cap exclaims, informing Peggy that he was musing on the subject last night.
Gazing out the window of the diner, Steve asks Peggy where Nick is now, when suddenly, he exclaims ‘Correct me if I’m wrong - but isn’t that Nick’s car driving by?’ he asks. Peggy looks at the car, and confirms that it is. They both rush out of the diner after Steve leaves some money on the table, and run down the sidewalk, with Cap thinking to himself that he still can’t believe it - SHIELD gone. ‘For years, Nick’s little spy group was almost as much a part of my life as the Avengers’ Steve tells himself, but as he and Peggy round an alleyway in pursuit of the car, only a brick wall at the end of the alley can be seen. Steve cannot begin to list the number of missions he undertook for SHIELD, in spite of the fact he never officially joined the organization. As they get closer to the wall, Peggy exclaims that she can hear the door behind the hologram wall closing. ‘Quickly!’ she tells Steve, and as they leap through the hologram, they make it into the facility before the door closes.
Cap ditches his trench coat, and they sere Nick’s yellow car, parked up ahead. ‘Looks like we’ve just missed him’ Cap remarks, while Peggy suggests that he can’t have gone far. Peggy tells Cap that she is curious as to why he stopped working with SHIELD in the past few years. ‘Was it my sister Sharon’s death…? Falling out with Nick? Or what?’ she enquires. As they walk quickly through the darkened facility, Cap explains that it was a combination of factors, adding that, for one thing, it finally dawned on him how ridiculous it was for the nation’s most recognizable hero to be working for the world’s most covert organization. Cap adds that Nick also seemed less inclined to use freelance help of late, before pointing out that he had forgotten how huge this place is, and tells Peggy that it is conceivable that they may never run into Nick.
Peggy suggests that they start at Nick’s office, as he may be here to clean out his desk, when suddenly, a light is shone on Cap and Peggy, and a voice calls out ‘Ahem! You yahoos looking for something?’. Nick Fury, Dum Dum Dugan and Gabe Jones stand together and look at Cap and Peggy. Nick holds a cigar in his hand as he tells his friends that if they are here to place their bid on this prime piece of New York real estate, he has to let them know that they are up against Donald Trump. ‘Nick! Gabe! Dum Dum!’ Cap shouts, as he and Peggy smile with delight. They rush over to their friends, and Nick tells Cap that it is long time no see. ‘How’s tricks?’ he asks him. ‘You know, Nick, I thought I had it bad - forced to give up being Cap, having the Avengers fall apart in my absence. But I’ve got to hand it to you, the mess you’ve made of your status quo tops mine!’ Cap exclaims.
Gabe smiles, while nick replies, ‘Yeah, I always did make you look like a piker’, and Dun Dum throws his arms around Peggy, lifting her into the air. ‘How ya been?’ he asks her. ‘Fine! Till you crushed my ribs!’ Peggy smiles. The quintet start walking through the SHIELD facility, and Cap tells Nick that, all kidding aside, he wants to know what has happened. ‘And don’t tell me its classified information, either. SHIELD isn’t around to classify it!’ Cap exclaims. Nick tells Steve that there was a dispute with upper management, and no way to resolve it without bringing his pride and joy organization down around their ears. ‘That still doesn’t tell me much’ Cap points out. Nick tells Cap that SHIELD got too big for its own britches, and he couldn’t keep his one good eye on it all anymore. ‘There was corruption and treachery way up over my head. And I was too blamed busy to save it!’
Nick informs Cap that in the months since the house of cards collapsed, he has been taking it pretty easy, going around to the zillion or so SHIELD branch offices across the world and personally seeing to it that all computers have been data-purged and that all weapons have been slagged, all high-tech hardware auctioned off and all the real estate has been sold. ‘I wasn’t kidding about Trump’ he adds. They all enter a room with high-tech computers, and Cap points out that Nick was always one to see things through to the end. Nick just declares that he is glad it is over. ‘Why anyone expected a chump like me to run the world’s biggest espionage outfit I’ll never know!’ he exclaims, while wondering whether all the computer mainframe data got dumped like he asked, or whether it is still chock full of secret intelligence.
Gabe turns on the lights to the room, while Dum Dum switches the computer on. ‘Since when did you get s blamed computer-knowledgeable?’ Fury asks Dum Dum, who replies ‘The Gaff taught me, Nick. Rest is soul’. Looking around the room, Cap recalls how, for the last few years, he wasn’t even allowed neat restricted areas like this, and now it is just hardware collecting dust. ‘Ahem’ Dum Dum mutters when he holds up some cobwebs, while Nick hands Gabe a disc, explaining that it has the virus programme, he asks Gabe if he knows what to do with it. ‘Just plug her into the system and stand back while she goes through program after program, gobbling up all the data in sight. Nothing purges cleaner’ Gabe smiles. As he starts to leave the room, Fury tells Peggy, Gabe and Dum Dum to see to it that all their classified files are wiped clean, as he and Captain America are going to go deep six the armoury.
‘Hey, save some of the fun stuff for us, huh?’ Peggy calls out. ‘Sure, lady, sure’ Fury calls back, before Peggy, Dum Dum and Gabe turn to the console and start getting to work. Dum Dum asks if Fury was so worried about all this classified stuff falling into the wrong ands why didn’t they wipe it out before they closed this place down last month? Gabe explains that they weren’t able to get a virus that could outwit all of the safeguards installed in the mainframe until yesterday. ‘Oh, figures’ Dum Dum mutters, while, down the corridor, Cap asks Fury what happens once he is done with the mop-up. Fury replies that he can’t say, adding that he has a lot of options, and the CIA would take him back in a minute. Fury reveals that he actually has a hankering to get a private detective’s license, when suddenly, the lights go out.
An instant later, the lights turn back on again. Fury supposes that Dum Dum just hit a wrong switch somewhere, while Cap wonders if it is a problem with the virus program. ‘Maybe - but whatever it was, I’m sure Gabe, Peg and Dum Dum can handle it’ Fury replies, unaware that back in the control room, his three friends are lying motionless on the floor, while the console is smoldering. Cap and Fury enter SHIELD’s central main armoury, where all their heavy-duty peace-keeping weapons were stored when not in use. ‘Which, come to think of it, wasn’t that often’ Fury remarks, smiling as he holds up a plasma-bazooka. ‘Gonna be a pity to atomize such a piece of work’ he tells Cap, who replies that he was never that enamoured of guns. Fury motions to one of the early Mandroid armor proto-types, ‘Ain’t worth spit in combat. But sure is handy for hauling scrap metal’ Fury explains, suggesting they take the armor for a final spin before destroying them.
Cap agrees, and shortly both men are wearing the bulky Mandroid armor, using them armor’s capabilities to carry the various weapons into the adjoining room, where pile of weapons has started to accumulate. Fury tells Cap to dump the weapons anywhere in the room, explaining that the room is an adamantium lined atomic furnace, and that it is used to disposes of obsolete weaponry. As he drops more weapons in the room, Cap tells himself that it is a relief to keep these guns off the black market, and that when it came to lethal weaponry, SHIELD had few peers. Cap then tells Fury that this seems like a waste of good metal, and asks what happens to it once the furnace melts it down. Fury explains that the liquid metal pours down the drain-pipes in the center of the room and collects in concrete vats below. He adds that SHIELD knew the value of recycling non-renewable resources, the same as anybody else.
‘Just making conversation, Nick’ Cap mutters, when he suddenly hears a noise - and an instant later, the doors to the furnace room slam closed - with Fury trapped inside! ‘If this is Cap’s idea of a joke, I’m gonna -’ Fury begins, before the computer announces that the furnace has 45 seconds until ignition. Cap wonders what is going on, realizing that the furnace door slammed shut with Nick inside, and he can hear the computer voice reading the countdown as well. Fury starts banging on the door, telling himself that the manual override box will not budge. ‘Hey, Cap! Open up out there!’ he shouts. Cap knows that he has to find some way to override the door’s locking mechanism. The timer is down to 36 seconds, when suddenly, something fires a blast of energy at Cap.
Captain America turns around and sees another proto-Mandroid, firing from both arms, it walks towards Cap, who dodges the attack, but as the armor he wears amplifies his movements, his reactions are throwing him off balance, and he falls to the floor. As the timer announces 19 seconds, Cap knows he has to get out of the crazy contraption, and manages to wrangle himself free. But with ten seconds left on the clock, he is anxious to free Nick somehow. The proto-Mandroid fires more shots at Cap, who leaps to safety, making his way over to a control panel, the computer announces that there are zero seconds remaining. ‘Nick! My God - NICK!’ Cap thinks to himself, unsure which instrument on the panel shuts the furnace down - but as the doors slide open, all that remains in a pile of ash in the center of the furnace. ‘Oh, Nick…no…NO!’ Cap exclaims.
However, Captain America doesn’t have long to mourn his friend, as the proto-Mandroid continues to attack him. He dodges a blast, then somersaults into the air to avoid another. ‘Wretched machine! Who activated you? Who’s controlling you?’ Cap calls out as the machine purposely comes after him into the furnace. Cap falls to the ground and rolls under the proto-Mandroid, right out of the furnace room, he presses buttons on the control panel and the doors slam closed, with the proto-Mandroid trapped inside. The computer voice sounds once more, counting down the seconds until ignition. Cap rushes out the armory, knowing he has to find the others, hoping that he is not too late to save them, too. Thinking to himself that this is a nightmare, and that Nick can’t be dead, Cap runs into more trouble as he rounds a corner, and is confronted by more of the proto-Mandroids.
The proto-Mandroids unleash various forms of energies at Cap, who ducks to the floor and covers his face with his shield. He then somersaults across the room, diving through the air to avoid the energies emitted by the robots. Cap wonders who could be behind this - AIM? Hydra? - when suddenly, he notices loose grenades lying on the ground, and throws one of them towards the proto-Mandroids, causing them to explode. He protects himself from the blast with his shield, and carries on down a corridor, only to be attacked by robotic tentacles which emerge from a wall. ‘Now this is getting ridiculous!’ Cap thinks to himself, as he is picked up by the tendrils, which are actually attached to a large robot that was part of the wall itself. ‘Who in the world is a master of robotics? Ultron? Doctor Doom?’ Cap tells himself, as the tendrils tighten around his neck, he struggles for breath, when suddenly, the robot is blown up from behind.
‘NICK!’ Cap exclaims as he sees Fury, holding a weapon in his hand, standing nearby. ‘You’re alive!’ Cap declares. ‘So I noticed’ Fury replies, before Cap asks him ‘How?’. Recalling recent events,Fury explains that he spent most of his time trying to open the main door, he then decided to try another way out. With four seconds remaining, he leapt through the iris-shaped opening called a blast shutter inside the furnace, which holds the recording instruments. When the furnace destroyed the weapons, he was safely behind the machines in the other room, sealed off as the iris closed when the blast went off. The two men carry on down the corridor, taking down various tendrils and weapons that attack them, while Fury tells Cap that it was just a matter of making his way through the maintenance ducts. ‘I swear, Nick - sometimes I think you’ll outlive me!’ Cap declares.
As they rush to the mainframe room, Fury asks Cap what is the scam with the screwy hardware, but Cap tells Fury that he hasn’t the slightest, and asks if it could be a malfunction caused when Gabe and the others activated the virus disc, but Fury replies that it can’t be, as a virus can’t do this. But as they enter the mainframe room, the doors slam shut behind them. ‘Whatever it is, pal, it knows where we are!’ Fury exclaims. Cap tells Fury that he has fought a number of robotics experts and asks whether Fury has, but Fury tells Cap to forget about that and look at Gabe, Dum Dum and Peggy. They rush over to their friends and help them off the floor. Cap reports that Peggy and Dum Dum are in shock, but breathing.
Fury guesses that something in this room did it, and believes it was the mainframe itself. He raises his weapon and fires it at the console,’ Eat heat, silicon sucker!’ Fury exclaims, and an instant later, the mainframe explodes. Fury tells Cap that they should get out of here, and they help their friends out of the room. Cap asks Peggy and Dum Dum how they are doing, to which Dum Dum replies that his legs feel like cold slabs of beef. Making their way down the corridor towards Fury’s car, Fury points out that as soon as he slagged the mainframe, the techno-attacks stopped. Fury supposes that somebody was in their system siphoning data when Gabe loaded the virus program, and whoever it was panicked and started sending crazy electronic feedback all over the facility, trying to get them to shut down.
As they load into Fury’s car and speed out of the facility, with Fury confused at how the mystery hacker was able to activate the Mandroids, as they are not hooked up to the main system. Cap informs Fury that he knows someone who has control over all things mechanical, a fellow known as the Machinesmith. He adds that he will be exasperated to learn Machinesmith is back among the living.
An hour later, Cap and Fury stand in a hospital room, at Peggy’s bedside. Cap informs his friend that the doctors say she will be back on her feet in a day. He adds that if she happens to be looking for gainful employment in this post-SHIELD era, she should give him a call. He points out that a person with Peggy’s skills would be perfect to run the Avengers’ communication facilities. Peggy smiles and tells Cap that she may take him up on the offer. Outside in the corridor, Cap tells Nick that it is great to see him again, despite it all. ‘It goes without saying that there’s a place in the Avengers for you, too’ Cap adds as they shake hands. ‘Me? Work under a green-horn like you? Don’t make me laugh’ Fury replies.
At that moment, at a different hospital, ‘We’ve come for John Walker’ Val Cooper tells a hospital employee as they enter the morgue. ‘Of course, come this way, Ms Cooper…Mr, uh, Star. You know, heh…heh…we don’t get all that many super heroes here!’ the man exclaims, looking at Battlestar, who just frowns and tells him to can the cute stuff, ‘Unless you want me to stuff that awful rug you’re wearing down your throat!’ Battlestar warns him. ‘Right. Of course. Step this way’ the employee tells them, leading them to the cabinet where John Walker’s body is being stored. But as he pulls the drawer out, ‘What?’ he utters. ‘Oh!’ Valerie exclaims, shocked. ‘The -? Johnny’s body! It’s gone!’ Battlestar declares as he and Val stare into an empty cabinet….