Steve guesses he shouldn’t be surprised. What was it his ex-wife used to say? She said to him “You’ve got everything you ever wanted, Steve Rogers… if the world didn’t turn out how you thought it would, well… that’s just life. Welcome to it.”
A now old, retired Captain America is at a party in his honor, listening to a speech. The spokesman remembers his grandfather telling him and his brother stories about seeing Captain America on the battlefield. The grandfather claimed that the inspiration that this great man was to all those fighting soldiers, and the risks that he and his partner Bucky took, how many times they came close to death, they were truly inspiring. Steve remembers.
The English Channel, 1945…
A drone plane takes off over the channel, with Captain America and Bucky on top of it! Steve warns his young partner that he’s losing his grip! Bucky tells Steve to grab his hand and he does. Steve suspects that the plane is probably booby-trapped, which Bucky confirms. Steve thinks there’s no time for subtlety and rips the engine apart. He climbs himself back up to Bucky, wanting to see if they can’t get this package to return to sender! They steer the plane towards Baron Zemo’s castle, where he and his soldiers start panicking upon sight. Steve and Bucky jump off the plane into the ocean, and watch the plane crash into Zemo’s castle, making it explode! With Bucky thinking Zemo dead, he wonders what they’re going to do next.
Berlin, Germany, 1945…
Reporting live, from the fall of Berlin, Edward R. Murrow tells the camera and the viewing public that he shall never forget the things they saw in the city over the past few days, when Captain America and the other Invaders led allied troops to victory over the last Nazi regiments that were holding the city. The Murrow adds that, though their crew was as far from the action as possible, the final battle between Master Man and the Invaders was still awe-inspiring. The blow these superhumans struck shook the very ground under their feet and, even half a block away, the heat from the Human Torch’s flaming form was blistering as he destroyed the Master Man.
The death of the Red Skull was not captured on film. But the image of his fallen form, with the Skull’s long-time enemy standing over his body, was broadcast around the world that night, as was the most amazing part of this whole week. When this morning, Captain America and Bucky emerged from a bunker under the city, with the Führer, Adolf Hitler himself captured! And it really was Hitler, the leader of the Third Reich and the worst mass murderer in modern history. He will be brought to justice now, for all the world to see. It’s truly a great day in Berlin, which many wondered if they’d ever live to see it.
Dum-Dum Dugan explains his respect for Cap. He was there to watch him fight the Red Skull on that rooftop in Berlin. He saw it, clear as day, that Nazi coward jump to his own death when he realized there was no other way out. Dugan claims that, these kids today, they don’t understand it. Everyone is special now, and either a mutant or a super-hero. But back in the old days, guys like Cap were a rare breed, and they won that stupid war for the world. This makes Steve smile, wondering when the last time was when he saw Dugan, thinking it was a long time ago at his wedding.
Washington DC, January 1946, the White House…
President Harry Truman has summoned Cap to his office, and he arrives there. The president has heard through the grapevine that Steve is thinking of getting married, and wants to know if that’s true. Steve confirms, unless the president has any objections of course but he hasn’t got any. The war is over, and the president thinks Steve served his country far more than they could have asked, thinking Steve deserves happiness now. Cap thanks President Truman for that, mentioning he did all he could just like all those other soldiers.
Truman laughs, as Steve is sounding modest as always. He jokes that, in any case, Bess would box his ears right off his head if he didn’t let her personal tie the knot. But, the president does have a few concerns. He explains to Steve that, as he knows, America’s relations with the Soviets aren’t good, even after the alliance they had. And while the president can’t see them going to battle them, tensions are going to be high there for some time. And there might come a day they will need to summon up Captain America’s help again.
Cap promises he’ll be here whenever the president needs him. Truman says he knew that, and asks Steve who Steve’s lucky girl is, and if she knows what she’s getting into. Cap smiles his girls better knows it, as she’s a spy. He met her while she was working alongside the French resistance. They walk out of the office to the gardens outside, with Truman wishing both Cap and his girl the best of luck. As they continue the walk, Truman wants to talk about these mutants he keeps hearing things about.
Senate Hearings on Mutant Activity in the United States, 1951…
Cap is present at the hearing and Senator McCarthy shows Cap a picture of his wedding, asking if that’s Namor he sees on it. Cap confirms. McCarthy is surprised that with this being the case: Cap still refuses to answer questions about this… mutant… and clearly Cap’s maintained a friendship with Namor beyond their time fighting together in World War II. Cap isn’t entirely clear why he is being questioned about Namor at all, wanting to know what the problem is.
McCarthy shouts at Cap that he’s out of order there, as they are the ones asking questions here. He explains that, unless Cap has been sleeping through the last several years, he must have seen the reports on mutant activity in America. He explains that the mutants infiltrated all aspects of their society and have practically taken over Hollywood, trying to spread the message over to America’s children. Cap wants to know what that message could possible be. McCarthy explains that the message is that the mutants are claiming that they are normal, like the rest of the world’s populace.
McCarthy asks Cap if he knew studies indicate that nearly one in every one five thousand United States citizen is now born as a mutant. Cap wasn’t aware of that. McCarthy smiles that Cap now is, thinking now Cap will answer his questions. The Senator has got some questions about both Namor and Cap’s other partner, the Human Torch, and that sidekick of his, Toro. Cap apologizes but he’s afraid he has to refuse to answer any questions about them.
Cap tries to stand up, but the Senator shouts at him to go sit back down immediately wanting to do him as ordered. He explains to Steve that his uniform puts him under their command as much as the president. If that’s the case, Cap is afraid he can no longer where the costume, as he won’t inform on his friends. He refuses to watch his country sink while the Senator gets drunk over the power he has. Cap takes off his mask and walks away.
1955… the Moon…
A spaceship called the Astro-5 lands and reports back to its base they’ve got lunar contact. The base reports back to Steve that he can go out for that moon walk. Steve goes outside and is thrilled. The base wants to hear something good, something they can put on film. After all, Rogers was Captain America. As he lands his feet on the moon, Steve jokes that this is one small step for men, but one giant leap for peace between man and mutant-kind. Steve asks his friend Watts if that’s newsworthy enough.
Back on Earth, the entire world witnesses how Astronaut Steve Rogers’s controversial first words from the moon have been the talk of the nation these past weeks. But sources at NASA were quick to point out that Rogers was merely trying to acknowledge that it was only through the combined work of human and mutant scientists that the United States was able to reach the moon so early in the space race.
At their home, Steve’s wife Peggy is watching the news about her husbands’ moon walk. The reporter mentions that Russia, where mutants are still banned from scientific work, has only recently been able to send an orbiter around Earth with any success. Nevertheless, the reporter concludes, Steve Rogers has long been cast by anti-mutant groups as a mutant-sympathizer.
Peggy is angry with Steve that he had to say that. Steve asks her to stop but Peggy refuses, as she noticed Steve can never just leave well enough alone. She wonders if he realizes what people are going to say to her at the office tomorrow. Steve angrily gets up, asking Peggy if her agency is spying on mutants now, instead of America’s actual enemies. He defends that mutants are American citizens. Peggy reveals that SHIELD keeps an eye on a lot of people, at home and abroad. She thinks it’s lucky that at least Bucky understands that. Steve didn’t know Bucky was now working for SHIELD as well. Peggy takes off, explaining that Steve could be working for them as well, but he had all of his old Army buddies pull strings so he could become an Astronaut, even after he embarrasses himself in front of the whole Senate.
New York City, 1957…
Steve and Bucky are eating at a local diner. Bucky is sorry to hear about Steve and Peggy’s breakup, as he thought the two of them would go the distance. Steve thought so too but things change, claiming Peggy never wanted to be an Astronaut’s wife. And she was also never thrilled at the way he gave up the mask. Bucky mentions that shocked a lot of people, him included. Steve understands, but asks Bucky what he would have done if they asked him to testify against Toro for simply being who he is. Bucky doesn’t know for sure, but would have probably done the same thing Steve did. But it’s hard to say and Bucky claims himself lucky they didn’t ask him.
Steve doesn’t want to hear that now that Bucky’s been working for SHIELD, that has made him turn paranoia about mutants as well. After all, Toro was his best friend. Bucky confirms, but that was in a different world. And like Steve said, things change. Bucky believes that the whole mutant issue isn’t as black and white as it looks. Sure, they’re guys like Toro, who fought the good fight beside them. And there’s the hyper-intelligent scientists that helped them kick Russian butt. But, Bucky concludes, in Eastern Europe there exist some mutant rights groups that are essentially terrorists. Steve reminds Bucky that there exist human terrorists in the world too. Terror isn’t exclusive. Bucky knows that. Except when you’re talking about mutants, they don’t plan bombs… they are the bombs.
And, of course, as the decades pass, Bucky’s words stayed with Steve. And there was a lot of truth in them. The mutant issue wasn’t black and white, it was about politics and prejudice and fear. It was about shades of grey. And there were shades of grey among mutantkind, too. There were heroes and leaders, and there were criminals and despots. After all, Steve wonders, why not? Why should mutants be any different than anyone else?
And why Steve spoke for equal rights for all people, regardless of race, creed, color or genetics, he also bore witness to a changing world, as the mutant population explosion became something undeniable. Regardless of how mankind felt, it was clear they would soon become a minority. And in this period of change, one mutant rose to prominence… a mutant named Magnus. Steve remembers lots of mutants gathering, just to look at Magneto’s posters hanging on walls.
Steve remembers that after his destruction of the Sentinel Program in the early 1970’s, the rushing tide finally overtook the world. Magneto was suddenly spoken of as a world leader. He was meeting with the United Nations and discussing ideas. And maybe it was the stubborn old warhorse in Steve, but Magnus’ vision of the future, his ideas for peace, they didn’t sit well in him. Steve even spoke out angry speeches in public, claiming they were watching as leaders all over the world are falling in line, falling all over themselves to agree with Magneto.
Steve knew that everyone knew that he bears no ill-will towards mutants, as he judges man and mutant alike by their deeds and words. And, Steve told the public right there and then, that in Magnus’ words he heard echoes of men he had faced before. Men like Mussolini and Stalin, and even Hitler. Steve now supposes he shouldn’t have been surprised when he was forced to take an early retirement from the Air Force soon after that speech. It turned out that Magneto had already gotten much father inside the system than anyone realized, and dissent was not going to be tolerated.
Steve thinks it’s amazing how quickly the world can pass someone by, make oneself feel irrelevant. From then on, the only people interested in talking to Steve were the radical human-separatist movements, and Steve refused to have anything to do with them. It wasn’t about keeping humans and mutants apart, it was about making sure the people in charge weren’t selling the world out. But no one would listen. In the late 70’s, when Bucky was killed in the line of duty, Steve was not allowed to speak for him at his old friend’s funeral. He was never even told the circumstances of Bucky’s death, though reading between the lines, it seemed clear it had something to do with a SHIELD operation in Genosha.
And SHIELD would soon be yet another arm of Magneto’s world, which Steve doubts Bucky would have found ironic. Maybe it was already starting then. Peggy wasn’t even at the funeral.
And here it is. Fifty years since that day Steve walked on the moon, and he’s still thinking about Peggy. He wonders what she would think of this dinner they threw for him. He thinks Peggy probably wouldn’t be too impressed, though at least Steve is glad Namor’s son showed up. He thinks Peggy would have liked to meet him. Steve doesn’t know what he can say here. He captured Adolf Hitler in his bunker. He walked on the moon. In the end, there’s not much more to do than thank the people who walked beside him, those who triumphed and those who fell. All the rest are just leaves scattered to the winds of history. The history of a world that no longer exists. A world that is no longer relevant.
After the party, Steve decides to take the subway home. As he descends the subway stairs, he gets kicked out of the way by two mutants. Steve doesn’t like them and the mutants think Steve wants to fight. Steve ignores them, and instead simply walks on the arriving train. As the train moves, Steve watches the two mutants cheering. He thinks it’s so hard to believe that this is the world he and his old buddies fought for. That this is the world where Bucky and so many others died for. A world where humans have been pushed aside for mutants.
Steve knows it sounds naïve, but it just… doesn’t seem fair. He guesses one can never know how life will go. Steve knows he could have died a hundred times over back in the war, but instead he lived through it. He captured Hitler with his own two hands. And then he got to walk on the moon ten years later. Steve smiles, thinking that’s not too shabby. He thinks about what Peggy used to say: “You got everything you ever wanted, Steve Rogers. If the world didn’t turn out the way you thought it would, well, that’s just life.” Still, Steve thought it would be a lot different than this.
As Steve walks inside his home, he doesn’t realize that he’s being watched above him, namely by Wolverine, Luke Cage, Emma Frost, Cloak and Spider-Man, who obviously have more in store for him.