For long months, the three sub-basements of the Avengers headquarters have been silent, stripped of all accoutrements, devoid of all activity. But with the sinking of Avengers Island, Captain America has reopened the sealed off substructure and brought his allies into its cavernous confines. The destruction of their base of operations was but the opening campaign in a secret war waged against the Avengers. A war whose first casualty is Prince Namor, the mighty Sub-Mariner.
Dr. Hank Pym examines the comatose Namor. Captain America asks him how it looks. “In a word: bad,” Hank replies. He can’t pry the control disc off Namor’s spine without running the risk of giving him neurological damage. Cap notes that Hank assumes Namor hasn’t already sustained permanent damage from Cap’s jarring the device in order to stop Namor’s mindless rampage. Pym stresses that, although he is not a physician, the Sub-Mariner’s vital signs appear to be stable despite the coma. If they could get this tinker toy off him safely, he thinks Namor will be okay.
Cap stresses that Pym is a cyberneticist, though. What can he tell him about the control disc? Not a heck of a lot, Hank admits. The Controller’s little mind-control device seems to be unearthly in construction. Didn’t he work once for that mad alien, Thanos? Cap nods. So, it looks like their best bet is to find Controller and force him to free Namor – or at least give up the secret of his technology so they can free him. Turning to Fabian Stankowicz, he tells him he has a project he wants him to work on with Doctor Pym. Fabian readily complies. As Cap recalls, that disc saps a person’s strength and broadcasts it somehow to the Controller himself. Maybe there’s a way to trace that broadcast.
Elsewhere, the first meeting of the six greatest subversive minds on the planet ever assembled in one room winds down. Their mysterious aide – unbeknownst to all to be Loki in disguise – has just come back. He is pleased to see they haven’t torn one another apart while he was away at business. “Still your waggling tongue, lackey!” Doctor Doom snaps. Ignoring him, Loki asks them if they have determined what the master stroke of their acts of vengeance shall be. Kingpin points out that, to reach an accord among such individuals as them, each with his own agenda, will take more than one summit meeting. He now moves they adjourn and ponder the various proposals on the table until tomorrow this time. The motion is carried unanimously and the Kingpin, the Mandarin, the Wizard, Doctor Doom, Magneto and the Red Skull head toward the transdimensional doorways to their respective headquarters.
Magneto hesitates before he steps through the doorway to his own headquarters. He has a question for their oh-so-mysterious aide-de-camp. “Yes, my Lord?” Loki urges him. Magneto wonders if that is the original Red Skull among them. His sources have informed him he was dead. Grinning devilishly, Loki replies that, as far as he knows, he is. Magneto puffs pensively.
Meanwhile, the Red Skull crosses the doorway that leads to his own office. He is grumpy: he does not like lying in nest of vipers. He would as soon never return there, where he not certain they would conspire against him!
In his office, he finds his lackey, Crossbones, sitting in a chair and trying out a gun. He asks him what he’s doing here. Crossbones greets his boss. Nice door he had installed there! Is he nuts thinking that it should open up to a ten story drop to the street? “Never mind that,” the Red Skull changes the subject. He asks him where the Controller is. Crossbones replies that, last time he heard, he’d just tagged the Sub-Mariner with one of his doodads, and was hoping to get Thor next. Power-hungry slob, isn’t he?
The Skull is vexed. He thought Crossbones understood that the Skull wanted him to stay on top of the operation. Crossbones impudently retorts that babysitting bozos is not his specialty. On the verge of throwing a tantrum, the Red Skull rejoins that Crossbones’ specialty is whatever the Skull says it is… does he make himself clear? “Yessir,” Crossbones complies. The Skull tells him to go and bring the Controller back with whatever power he has so far accumulated – at once! “On my way,” Crossbones grumpily replies. The Skull suggests he’d better take his ‘mouthpiece’. “Whatever ya say,” Crossbones murmurs as he leaves the room.
Later that night, in Queens, New York, the Controller, disguised as normal human as much as possible, watches a fight in the street between Thor and Juggernaut. Another eyewitness of the fight, standing behind the bulky villain, verbally assails the Controller. What is his idea of blocking the view? He tells the Controller he isn’t the only one who wants to see Thor duke it out with Humpty Dumpty. Cretins, the Controller thinks, barely keeping himself from attacking the man. All around him, other people witnessing the fight are cheering Thor up!
Within the fight area, Thor continues his battle against Juggernaut. The Norse god tells Juggernaut that he must cease his destruction at once! “Move it, fancy pants!” Juggernaut replies – Thor is violating his personal space!
The curious crowd is separated from the battle area with a police tape. A police officer, speaking in his loudspeaker, tells the crowd to back up. This is an emergency zone! They cannot guarantee their safety if they do not cooperate! Seeing the Controller still standing undeterred in front of him, the police officer asks him if he’s deaf or something – he told him to move! Controller bellows with anger and grabs the man’s face with his monstrous fist. The desperate officer makes to shoot him, but the Controller also grasps his victim’s hand and squeezes it. Finally, he drops the bloody, lifeless man on the pavement.
“I see you got a healthy respect for the law!” a man in a hat and trenchcoat sneers as he approaches the Controller. But doesn’t the Controller think stunts like that kind of defeat the purpose of disguising himself? Controller is surprised: “Who…?” The man holds his hat up and reveals himself as Crossbones. He hopes Controller won’t say he forgot him – he’d be crushed. Controller, of course, recognizes him. Crossbones informs him that the Skull wants him back in Washington pronto. Some kind of change of plans.
Controller says no: he has tracked Thor down. He intends to steal his power. Crossbones asks him what he’s waiting for, then. “Stealth,” Controller explains. Crossbones offers to show him stealth. He asks Controller to give him one of his doodads. After the Controller hands him a disc, Crossbones pins it on one of his arrows. He hopes Controller has made these things to take a licking and keeping on ticking! Controller wants Thor… Crossbones will give him Thor. He targets Thor and fires with his crossbow… only the arrow gets Thor’s opponent, Juggernaut, instead. The incident does not evade Thor’s attention. He could swear he saw something strike Juggernaut’s helmet. But Juggernaut seems not to have noticed.
Controller is positively livid with fury. “You unmitigated idiot! You missed!” he roars. “Hey, the long-haired yahoo ducked me… so sue me!” Crossbones nonchalantly replies. He turns his attention to their own business. He urges the Controller to come on; the Skull wants them to…
“To blazes with what the Skull wants!” the Controller snaps and turns his back to him. “No man controls the Controller!” he haughtily gloats and proceeds to leave. “Oh yeah?” Crossbones exclaims. He tells Controller to meet the Voice. A red-haired, bearded man, also dressed in normal civilian clothes, appears. “Stop!” the Voice utters and the Controller is instantly transfixed in place.
A short time later, Captain America is flying above the city on his sky-cycle. He’s got to hand it to Hank and Fabian. They really came through in the tech department. They managed to cobble together a control-disc emanation detector in a matter of hours. Cap suddenly notices the signal of the detector is really strong here… he must be…
He suddenly notices a strange-looking aircraft parked on the roof of a high-rise nearby. Something that has no business being there, that’s for sure. Just then, he sees the aircraft taking off VTOL – vertical take-off and landing. Steve has a hunch a certain craggy-faced criminal is inside! He quickly sets the sky-cycle in automatic and jumps forward, holding onto the departing aircraft.
Inside, Crossbones is piloting the aircraft. He asks the Voice how long he can keep Controller docile. Just then, Crossbones asks them if they felt something – like something hit the fuselage. Crossbones doesn’t see anything on the aft monitor, though. He turns to the Voice. The Voice, in turn, still in control of Controller thanks to his voice persuasion power, orders him to take a look at the hatch. Controller complies. “There’s a good fellow,” the Voice sneers. The Controller proceeds to open the hatch. He doesn’t know how that bearded man manages to make him obey his commands, but he vows he is going to pay for this indignity.
“Knock knock, fella!” Cap ambushes him, as he jumps through the hatch and kicks him the face. From the pilot’s seat, Crossbones recognizes Captain America. He knew he shouldn’t have counted on that explosion in Madripoor to do him in! He wonders if the Controller will be able to handle him or if Crossbones himself will have to step in.
In the background, the fight continues between Captain America and Controller. Controller suggests that Cap is one of the weakest Avengers, hardly worth wasting a… Cap cuts him in mid-sentence, as he strikes him below the jaw with his shield. He realizes the Controller’s sapped most of Namor’s strength. He’s going to have to play a rougher game than usual, just to stay alive. Manoeuvring all around him, Cap wishes he could just figure out where he keeps his spare discs!
Crossbones fears that this crack-faced clown, Controller, is going to rip the crate apart the way he’s going. He asks Voice to get him to cool it. “Both of you… stop!” the Voice screams at the top of his lungs. It’s no use, though – they can’t hear him over the whine of the air through the hatch.
Cap takes cover behind his shield, which bears the brunt of the Controller’s punches. He realizes the Controller’s got Namor’s speed, as well as strength. He’s got to get him to back off… give him more to move. Kicking him in the sternum, he manages to put him off-balance. Watching the altercation, Crossbones urges the Voice to get in there and stop that ruckus!
As Cap hurls his shield against Controller’s face, Voice shows up behind Cap. His voice persuasion powers in effect, he commands Cap to… Before he finishes his sentence, Cap elbows him in the stomach, taking his breath away. He’s just realized who this joker is – the so-called man with the Voice of Doom. Like Controller, another Vault escapee. Steve hasn’t had a chance to see the pilot yet, though.
“Annoying gnat! I’m gonna smash you through the floor!” Controller snarls. Cap challenges him to try. Controller lunges forward and strikes, but misses him as Steve leaps aside. Steve scornfully observes that for a fellow called the Controller, he sure acts out of control! Berserk, the Controller again lunges against him, but Cap again evades him, and the Controller’s attack takes him through the open hatch. Cap realizes he still hasn’t taken a control disc from him for Hank to study. He decides he only has one thing to do, and also jumps through the open hatch and into the sky. He just hopes the Controller has refuelled his boot-jets!
Meanwhile, on upper Broadway, a dismal Diamondback trudges toward her apartment. This is nuts; she keeps wondering around like a zombie. Why can’t she just go home? What is she afraid of? Being alone? When Cap told her to run along, he did say he’d be in touch, didn’t he? So why doesn’t she believe him? He’s supposed to be a man of his word. Ah, he makes her so mad!
She halts before a shop window, spotting a nice outfit. She bets it’d be a lot warmer than these rags she’s wearing. Unfortunately, the store’s closed and she doesn’t have a red blooded cent on her. So, when that’s ever stopped her? Without Cap in the picture, what’s it to keep her from taking whatever she wants? Tempted, she extends her hand to the window, and then she pauses: No. If she goes back to her old ways, she’d torch the bridge between Cap and she for good. She’s not ready for that just yet.
Several blocks away, Cap grips the Controller’s throat, the latter now flying with his jet-boots. Controller demands he let go of him. Cap wonders what the matter is – doesn’t he like being jumped from behind? He doesn’t recall the Controller having any problem with it the time he bushwhacked Cap! Still clasping the Controller’s head in a vise-like grip, he suddenly detects a control disc on him. He quickly comes up with a plan and jumps off the villain, landing down to the ground, his back turned on him. Controller admits Cap has managed to impress him. He may not much in raw strength, but his fighting skills are certainly worth getting under control! Cap secretly hopes his gambit works, or else he’s…
Controller attaches one of his slave discs at the back of Cap’s skull. Steve collapses to the ground. Pleased, the Controller notes that Cap’s might is now added to his. Voice commands him to return to the ship. Controller complies.
After Crossbones’ crate flies away, Cap slowly gets up, surprised that he made it. Well, what do you know? he thinks. The cybernetic armor plate Hank Pym rigged up worked. Apparently, Cap’s strength was so meager compared to Namor’s, the Controller couldn’t tell if he gained it or not. Well, at least one of them got what they wanted, he thinks and pulls the disc from where it was pinned on the armor plate at the back of his skull.
About an hour later, in Washington, D.C., the Controller, the Voice and Crossbones are all in the Red Skull’s office. The Voice orders the Controller to do whatever the Skull commands. Controller assures him he’s aware of that. The Skull tells him he has a simple task for him, one that will benefit them both. There is someone he wants him to control – a man with baffling power who has not only breached his security systems as if they were non-existent, but also gathered together some of his greatest rivals. He wants him neutralized. He opens the interdimensional doorway and urges him to come. Their target can be found through this door. The Skull will point him out and the Controller will slap a slave disc on him. “As you say,” the Controller submits. The Skull passes through the doorway and the Controller follows him, only to stumble over a blocking wall impeding him from crossing over.
The Skull finds himself in the conference room, only to realize in astonishment that there was something preventing the Controller from walking through. Loki waits in the center of the room. Smiling sardonically, he asks his “master,” the Skull, if there’s something amiss. The Skull crossly tells him he needs to see him alone in his office. It’s a matter of great importance. Loki wonders what’s wrong with conversing right here. The Skull justifies himself, claiming that Doom or any of those other buffoons could walk in at any moment.
“Very well. After you, my master,” Loki offers and curtly gestures to the doorway. The Skull hopes the Controller will be ready and passes through. The next man you see… he whispers at him, as he sees him ambushing right by the doorway in his office. Loki follows suit but, as he crosses into the Skull’s office, the Controller violently attaches one of his slave discs on the back of his head. Loki goggles his eyes, seemingly entranced.
The Skull relishes: he finally has him! He congratulates the Controller on his work. Addressing Loki, he tells him he works for the Skull now. His immediate task: to help the Skull take command of his little enclave of masterminds. Turning to the Voice, he urges him to come over here.
Plucking the slave disc out of his body, Loki grins deviously and tells him that will not be necessary – for he is not susceptible to magic such as this! The Skull is dumbfounded. “You’re not one to be trusted, are you sir?” Loki notices with a cruel smile. He commends him: that is good. That is precisely why he was chosen as one of his elite. “Good day, Mr. Smith,” he cackles and vanishes in a pool of light. More livid than ever, the Skull vows he will get that man!