In the sub-basement of the Avengers headquarters, Namor the Sub-Mariner awakens from his coma and lashes out. Captain America, Hank Pym, Fabian Stankowicz and other Avengers allies present in the room back off. Cap shouts at everyone to give Namor room: he’s disoriented. Fabian realizes that Doctor Pym did it: he managed to get the control disc off the Sub-Mariner’s neck without killing him.
Cap cautiously rests his hand on the confused Namor’s shoulder and urges him to be at ease; he is among friends. Namor finally snaps out of his haze and recognizes him. Rubbing his head and clinging against Cap, he wonders what happened to him. Steve explains that a punk named the Controller ambushed him and put him under his mental control. Hank Pym figured out a way to free him. Pym notes that Cap modestly left out his role in Namor’s rescue.
Namor remembers that he had come to warn them there is something sinister afoot. A mysterious figure approached him undersea, mistaking him for a villain, and offered him a membership in an assemblage of villains including the Red Skull and Doctor Doom. Namor intends to return to that part of the sea. The mystery man left him a portal. He will pretend to join them, and… “Excuse me. Where am I?” he suddenly enquires in confusion, not recognizing the surroundings. And where is the exit?
The Smith Building, Washington, D.C.
From her desk, Ilsa, the Red Skull’s secretary, advises the Skull’s lackey, Crossbones, not to go in there right now: the Skull’s in a very bad mood. “So, when isn’t he, Ilsa, darlin’?” Crossbones retorts. “I’ll thank you not to call me that,” Ilsa coldly replies. “Yeah, yeah,” Crossbones concedes. He tells her he’ll be in the gym if the boss needs him – or if she does, he lewdly insinuates with a cackle and leaves.
In his office, the Red Skull is smoking a cigarette, all the while contemplating the latest developments. The consortium of masterminds has not been going at all to his liking. How he detests his so-called “allies.” Doctor Doom, the mad dictator with whom he’s crossed swords in the past; the Wizard, an idiot gadget-maker; the Kingpin, some petty New York mob leader; the Mandarin, a poor man’s Fu Manchu; Magneto, the mutant miscreant. And most of all, the one who brought them together. The man of unguessed power, who refuses to divulge his identity. And who has scoffed at the Skull’s attempt to subjugate him! Clenching his fist with anger, the Skull thinks he would simply quit the group and be done with it, if not for that infernal transdimensional doorway imbedded in the wall of his office!
Suddenly, he notices cracks forming on said wall. He wonders what’s happening. And then, in an impressive display of power, Magneto bursts forth inside the room, blasting the wall to smithereens, afloat in the air. He tells the Skull they must talk.
At that moment, 15 miles away, Captain America is piloting his ship, while contemplating the information Namor gave him. The last time he encountered a man claiming to be the Red Skull was in Washington, D.C., across from the Capitol on the top floor of a private office complex. If the Skull – or his successor – is behind any or all of the attacks on the Avengers, D.C. is the place to start looking for him. Steve thinks he’d better try to call in some old favors and have a search warrant waiting for him…
In the Red Skull’s office, the Skull, livid with anger, hopes Magneto has one devil of a good reason for causing all that damage. Magneto assures him he does. Just then, an automatic weapon – part of the Skull’s endless array of defense mechanisms and traps – rises from the floor, about to fire at Magneto. Unperturbed and stone-faced as usual, Magneto magnetically disassembles it. Turning to the Skull, he explains he needs to know something. Is he or is he not the same Red Skull who worked for Adolf Hitler during World War II?
Lighting a cigarette, the Skull admits he is, though he is on his second body. Lure the fool closer! he secretly thinks, a new plan already forming in his mind. Magnus angrily explains that he and his family were victims of Nazi oppression… of concentration camps… of brutality… He swore to avenge them! Though as far as he can determine, the Skull personally had nothing to do with their deaths, he willingly served the most barbaric despot of this century and committed countless atrocities to advance his twisted regime!
Three men in the Skull’s security storm inside in the room and proceed to fire at Magnus. Magneto effortlessly repels them with his powers. He focuses his attention on his ‘accused’, the Skull, again: how does he plead?
The Skull claims they are much alike, the two of them. Both of them wish to see their master race inherit the Earth. Does Magneto call his Fuehrer barbaric? Is the Skull mistaken or did Magneto himself kill hundreds of men by sinking a submarine a few years back? To help realize his minority group’s destiny, would Magneto balk at the imprisonment of inferiors? The extermination of the unfit? Magneto shouldn’t expect him to be impressed by his sanctimonious posturings of moral superiority! Tending his hand to him for a handshake, he proposes they let the past rest. They both have better things to do in the present.
“The devil with that, Nazi scum!” Magneto rants, refusing to shake his hand. Still, the cunning Red Skull realizes Magneto’s close enough for his dust of death, which he promptly blows off from his cigarette and into Magnus’ face! Magneto is surprised: gas? If not for his magnetic force-field, he’d be dead, inhaling this.
Force-field, the Skull pensively replies and remembering something, clicks on a device he carries on him. At once, a plastic bubble manifests around Magnus, ensnaring him. The Skull quips that he uses something like force-fields on occasion himself and hurries off the room. He’d best exercise caution; he’s not certain how long his plastic bubble will contain Magneto. There’s nothing metallic in it for his magnetic powers to work against, and yet, he does not truly know the extent of his mutant abilities.
Furious, Magneto demands the coward come back here! The Skull enters his secret private elevator. Hailing him mockingly in the Nazi salute, the Skull vows that next time they do meet, it will be at a time and place of his choosing. The elevator then begins going down.
Magneto screams his name. The Skull thinks him helpless – but the complete master of one of the four elemental forces is never helpless! Concentrating, he breaks through the plastic bubble and rushes to the elevator’s door. Peeking inside, he sees it’s a pneumatic elevator tube. The Controller, however, ambushes him from behind, claiming that Magnus has something he wants! “A pity I’ll never know what it was,” Magneto impatiently replies and sends him flying through the hole in the wall.
Outside, Cap has just arrived with his jet. Clinging on a rope ladder, he notices below a hole in the penthouse wall, a floating rectangle and sounds of a crash – what in the world? From this side, the rectangle looks like a door and…
“The Controller!” he thinks in surprise, as he jumps down outside the damaged penthouse wall and comes across the villain. The Controller is likewise dumbfounded: “You – again?” He thought… A thought? Cap amazes. It must’ve been a novel experience for the Controller!
Several floors below, Magneto has flown all the way through the elevator tube, hot in the Skull’s pursuit. He wonders where he is – there are three corridors he could have fled down. Just then, he hears something to his left and comes across a robot – Sleeper. The robot projects some sort of thermal blast, leading Magneto to shield himself with his force-field.
Nearby, the fleeing Skull hears the sound from the Sleeper’s blasts. Is it too much to hope that the mutant’s force-screen will not be proof against the Sleeper’s thermoscopic bombardment? To be on the safe side, he had best evacuate the premises. And when he finds out who compromised the whereabouts of his headquarters to that mutant mongrel, how he will pay!
Upstairs, Captain America and the Controller have carried their fight to the Skull’s office. Crossbones aloofly watches them from the entrance to the office. He wonders what’s going on here. He is incredulous: Cap set off all those alarms and caused all this damage? He didn’t know he had it in him! And where the heck is his boss? He deduces the Skull must’ve left the Controller to deal with Cap. Crossbones turns his back to the combatants and walks away. As much as he’d like to get a few good licks in, considering how cheesed the boss got with him after Crossbones messed with El Capuccino without the Skull’s permission last time, he’d better book. He mentally wishes to the Controller to have fun.
Cap grabs the Controller and aims for the weird floating doorway. However, the Controller shifts his weight and misses the door altogether, but, as Cap grumpily notices, the door is solid enough for the villain to grab onto. His plan was worth a try, though, Steve thinks. Grabbing onto the door, the Controller makes his way inside the demolished office again. He howls incomprehensibly at Cap. “Correct me if I’m wrong, fella, but I think you already said that!” Steve quips, as he avoids a strike by his opponent. The Controller vows he’s had enough of Cap’s prattle and prancing about – he will bury him! He tears off a part of the floor and tosses it on Cap.
Steve pretends to be hurt and wringing on the floor. Get ready… he urges himself. Standing above him, the Controller gloats. He does not know how Cap freed himself from his control after their last encounter, but he shall not do so again. With these killing blows he shall be under control forever! He leans closer to Cap for the coup de grace… but then the svelte Cap attaches one of the Controller’s own slave discs on his forehead.
His eyes goggling, the Controller lets out a soft grunt and then collapses. Steve realizes it worked. Attaching the control disc they removed from Namor to the Controller’s own head caused some sort of feedback loop as he tried to leech off his own power. He advises the Controller to better learn to control himself! Cap then runs off, to see whether he can find the Red Skull – or whoever.
In the sub-level, Magneto fights the Sleeper. Creature of metal and circuitry, Magneto disdainfully huffs – this robot is no match for one who controls the very fiber of its being. True to his word, Magneto eviscerates the robot, and again resumes his pursuit of the Red Skull along the corridors of this subterranean level. He follows a specific direction, assuming that the automaton was trying to deter him from proceeding there. He comes across an armored door, which he magnetically tears off. He enters a room with track on the floor and wonders what this is – a private subway station?
“Hold it right there, mutant dog!” Magneto freezes, as he is greeted by about a dozen duplicates of the Red Skull, all armed with guns and aiming at him. The Red Skull doppelgangers scoff that Magneto will never guess which one of them is the real Skull before they annihilate him – and open fire at him. Shielding himself from their bullets, Magneto coolly replies he doesn’t need to guess: he knows. In an impressive display of power, he lashes at out at them and disintegrates the synthetic beings.
Magneto’s suspicions are confirmed: they were robots, the whole lot of them. The Skull must have as big a fetish for artificial men as Doctor Doom does. He notes with contempt how they must feel the need to surround themselves with things they can feel superior to! Again floating in the air, Magneto notices the railway tracks go in but one direction. Pleased, he also notices they are tracks of metal.
A bit ahead, the Skull is driving away on his private shuttlecar, when he suddenly feels the tracks behind him breaking apart – the result of Magneto’s manipulations. Was…?! the Skull thinks in horror.
At that moment, Namor has returned to the mid-Atlantic. He has reached the site of the underwater glowing portal at last – but the portal is nowhere to be seen. The mystery man must have withdrawn his offer to him. He communicates via radio to the Avengers and informs them the doorway is gone. He asks for advice. The Avengers communicate back and tell him not to sweat it. They are sure Cap has the sitch in hand on his end.
In Washington, Cap has also reached the sub-level and comes across the remains of the Sleeper. So this is where the Sleeper ended up after the sinking of the Avengers Island. It looks like somebody took him down hard – he wonders who. Proceeding further ahead, he finds the dozen Red Skull robots similarly dismantled. He can’t quite tell the method of dismantlement. They look exploded from within.
Suddenly, he hears a noise from up ahead, coming from the direction where the tracks seem to head. Cap rushes there, realizing that something crashed on these tracks. A little later, he discovers blood in the tracks – but no sign of anybody. The shuttlecar is derailed and demolished. What went on here? Where is the Skull? Who was he fighting?
Elsewhere, sometime later, the Skull opens his eyes and faces Magneto. Magnus remarks he should kill him and be done with it. But that would reduce him to the level of a common killer. It would make him not better than the Skull. And he is better than the Nazi. He reveals he has placed him in solitary confinement. He is in a former fallout shelter some 20 feet underground. Pointing him to the ceiling, he shows him the one escape hatch. With the ladder removed and the room stripped bare, there is no way for the Skull to reach it.
He motions at ten gallons of water in one corner of the room. He advises him to conserve it. It is all he will have to sustain him for his period of confinement. He has stripped the Skull of his homing transmitters. No one on Earth knows he is here but Magneto. Down here there is no light, no food, no company, no amenities, no companionship – just water and air. Levitating himself up through the hatch, Magneto explains he wants the Skull to sit here and think of the horrors he has perpetrated. He wants him to suffer as he’s made other suffer. He wants him to wish he had killed him. “I take my leave on you… Skull,” he says and shuts the hatch.
Angry and desperate, the Skull is left, all alone, in the darkness of his prison.