“Soak it up, Peter,” says Tony Stark as he puts his arm on the unmasked Spider-Man’s shoulder, “You’re bigger than Elvis now.”
The photographers snap away and the reporters rush up to the stage to ask Peter Parker their shock-inspired questions.
Rain falls on the nation of Wakanda. Standing on the outskirts of his city, the King T’Challa asks Reed Richards if he really unmasked Spider-Man on television. No, says Reed, as the rain soaks his hair. Parker volunteered, because Iron Man explained the gravity of the situation. Confidence in super-humans is at an all-time low. Stark’s plan for a new beginning is the only thing the heroes have left.
A super police force that covers all fifty states, asks the perplexed Black Panther. They want him to come to the United States and help hunt down any super heroes who disagree with it? T’Challa declines the request. Wakanda does not like it when America interferes with their affairs, so he can only assume that the feeling will be reciprocated. Actually, says Reed, the president requested Black Panther’s support personally. T’Challa tells Reed that he is afraid the president will be disappointed. Now, how is Johnny Storm? Is the Human Torch recovering well?
Reed admits that he hasn’t checked up on Johnny in a day or two, but Sue has barely left his bedside. If anything was wrong, Reed is sure he would have heard. Reed then looks around at the beautiful landscape around him and comments that he loves it out here. He loves the high-tech jungle. It is so eerie standing among the trees without birds and insects. Reed always meant to ask, does the eco-system adapt itself or does the Panther manipulate if artificially?
“Word of advice, Reed,” says T’Challa, “Call Susan.”
The newspapers don’t miss a beat. Captain America’s “Secret Avengers” make the front page as they end a new Sinister Six plot.
At the home of the mystic, Dr. Strange, Yellowjacket and Wasp wait in the foyer of the arcane building. Wong, Strange’s manservant, stands at the bottom of the winding steps to the top level, blocking the two access. He tells the heroes that he is sorry, but the master would not consider supporting Tony Stark’s plans. In fact, Strange has gone in seclusion in his arctic lodge in the hope that he might resolve the differences between the pro-side and anti-side by fasting for forty nights. Yellowjacket tells Wong that Strange knows where to find him if he changes his mind. Wasp looks down at her watch and, in annoyance, says that it seems her watch always stops when she is in this stupid house.
Tony Stark’s promise to stop the Super-Rebels makes the front cover of papers, though reporters wonder how many heroes are on Stark’s new team.
On the grounds of the school, Emma Frost sits with Tony Stark, dressed in a spiffy white suit and black shirt, with a book in her lap. Tony pours a glass of lemonade for him and Miss Frost, and flirts with her. He thinks this is the first time he and her have been alone since Marrakech. Does Cyclops know about that little arrangement he and her used to have when neither of them was dating? Cyclops knows everything, replies Emma coolly. Since Scott cannot hide anything from her telepathic mind, it is only fair that she shares everything and keeps no secrets from him.
“My,” says Stark, “You really have changed.”
As children run by, playing soccer, and a Sentinel stands guard, Tony tells Emma that she must know why he is there. Is there any point in verbalizing anymore? Not especially, replies Emma. The X-Men had a meeting last night and decided that helping Tony hunt down these anti-registration rebels would be a violation of everything the X-Men believe in.
Even with ninety percent public backing, asks Tony. Even with her boyfriend so keen on getting in the good favor of the White House again?
Emma retorts back that perhaps the X-Men know how it feels to be persecuted, while Tony fights the good fight. Tony tells Emma to ask the moms and dads in Stamford if they think Captain America is still fighting the good fight. A bit offended, Emma asks Tony if he really is going to blackmail her with genocide. Does he want to compare notes?
Emma then casts a telepathic illusion of the ruins of Genosha, littered with charred skeletal remains of sixteen million mutants. Where were the Avengers when Genosha died, Iron Man, asks Emma. “Where were you when our babies were burning?”
Tony gets up and tells Emma that he though she was supposed to be looking out for the best interest of her students. Is it really wise to put them on a collision course with the American government?
Emma tells Tony that she doesn’t want a fight. The X-Men are perfectly happy to remain on this little reservation the government has made for them. All the X-Men ask is that they are left alone and in return, the team won’t join forces with Tony’s star-spangled friend. Your choice, Mister Stark, says Emma.
Tony leaves the mansion grounds to his limo at the front gate. Happy Hogan waits for him and asks if the X-Men are joining their side. Afraid not, replies Tony. However, they are not joining Captain America either, which means the pro-side still has a huge advantage in terms of actual numbers. Tony thinks they should go ahead with the containment as planned. He wants the anti-side neutralized before he goes public with the Fifty-State Initiative.
Suddenly, a voice from the bushes calls out to Iron Man. Bishop emerges from the shadows and asks Tony if he can speak to him.
Four men sit at a booth at a restaurant. Captain America, with brown hair and a mustache, introduces himself as Brett Hendrick. He is a security supervisor at a shopping mall in Queens. Next to him, Hercules, who now wears clothes and glasses, introduces himself as Victor Tegler. He is an I.T. consultant for a major international finance corporation. Daredevil, with glasses, a vest, and red hair, introduces himself as Cooper Peyton. He is an engineer from Long Island.
Goliath, however, sits in a suit with glasses and looks down at his card. What kind of name is Rockwell Dodsworth, asks Bill. And how the hell does he end up as a community outreach worker. He told Fury he wanted to be something cool, like an actor or racecar driver. Does Cap think Fury could get him another identity?
No, says Cap to Goliath. They have to take what Fury offers them. Besides, the secret I.D. is just a place for them to go to ground when they aren’t doing important stuff. Daredevil tells his teammates that he is getting used to this secret identity stuff. He is trying to come up with new favorite foods, movies and bands. What about Spider-Man, Goliath asks. Do they think Tony Stark really talked him into taking off his mask like that?
Daredevil tells Goliath that it is a great move, strategically. No one has guarded his real name more than Spider-Man. It sends a powerful message for all the costumes still riding the fence. Hercules notices that Cap is quiet, and asks him if he is ok. Cap tells the group that he is thinking about an appointment he had ten minutes ago with a kid from the “Make a Wish Foundation.” He told the kid he’d play baseball in his backyard with him for a while, but he is sure the backyard is crawling with Cape-Killers. It is the little things that the pro-side has stolen from them with this registration garbage. It’s the little things that make them who they are.
Suddenly, a device in Goliath’s pocket rings. He checks the call and discovers that a petrochemical plant is on fire over by the Hudson. Base says that three or four hundred people trapped inside. Cloak and Dagger are coming to teleport them down. Cap gets up and gives the waitress her money, telling her to keep the change.
The four rush into the nearby alley and take off their clothes to reveal their uniforms underneath. Goliath thinks about the emergency distress calls and the idea of sneaking into an ally to change into costume – he hates to say it, but he is starting to enjoy this.
New York Presbyterian Hospital:
A doctor and a nurse converse at the nurse’s station. The doctor tells the nurse that she doesn’t think it is cool that Captain America’s side is still fighting crime. What she thinks would be cool is if Cap stopped breaking the law. The nurse tells Darlene that she is sure the people in that hijacked plane are grateful that Cap’s Secret Avengers are still around.
Suddenly, another doctor is shocked to see the injured Johnny Storm walking on crutches down the hall. She tells Storm that he can’t be out of bed. He has to sleep. The weary Johnny asks the women if anyone has seen his sister.
Cloak and Dagger teleport in the Secret Avengers team to the burning chemical factory. As the heroes look around, Cap asks how many workers did the report say were trapped. Three or four hundred, replies their ally, Cable. However, something is wrong. He is getting nothing over his info-net in terms of panic signals. Suddenly, Cable stops talking. What’s wrong, asks Luke Cage.
Cable looks down at the rubble and sees a sign for Geffen-Meyer Chemicals – a division of Stark Industries.
An alarmed Cable calls out to his allies that it is a trap. They need to get out of there!
Suddenly, a barrage of darts hits into the backs of Cloak and Wiccan, knocking both men out.
“Of course it was a trap,” says Iron Man, “How else were we going to get you all in one place?”
The Secret Avengers turn to see Iron Man, the three remaining members of the Fantastic Four, She-Hulk, Ms. Marvel, Doc Samson, the Thunderbolts, Yellowjacket, Wasp, Wonder Man, Tigra, Black Widow and Spider-Man.
Hulkling checks on the unconscious Wiccan and demands to know what has happened to him and Cloak. Spider-Man tells the kid that it is just a tranquilizer to make sure no one is teleported away. He then contacts Sky-bird One and asks if they have the anti-side in their sights.
Above in helicopters, snipers are prepared and have the heroes in their sight. They are ready when Spider-Man is.
Director Hill calls all airborne agents and tells them that they are only there in a support capacity. They should hold their fire and await further orders.
Iron Man approaches Captain America, who asks Tony if his paymasters are going soft. Iron Man tells Cap that he hasn’t come to arrest them. He talked S.H.I.E.L.D. into offering final amnesty. You mean a surrender, asks Cap. Thanks, says Cap, but he’d rather take his chances.
Spider-Man speaks up and tells the “big man” that the only people who win when heroes are fighting each other are the bad guys. This goes against every principle Cap believed in. Angry, Cap snaps back and tells Spider-Man not to talk to him about principles. He saw that little stunt he played on television. Is Mary Jane happy about the Sandman having her zip code now?
Iron Man lifts up his faceplate and tells Cap that he knows he is angry since this is an enormous change from the way they used to work, but they aren’t living in 1945 anymore. The public doesn’t want masks and secret identities. They want to feel safe when heroes are around and there is no other way to win back the public’s respect. Cap has known Tony for half his adult life. He knows Tony wouldn’t back this up unless he believed in it with all his heart. They don’t want to fight Cap. He just needs to give Tony a chance to explain his twenty-first century overhaul.
Iron Man extends his hand and Cap looks at it. He then looks up at the choppers in the sky, and then grasps Tony’s hand, telling him that he has five minutes. Five minutes is all I need, says Iron Man. Invisible Woman and Mach-IV smile at each other, and Spider-Man is glad that “wing-tips” agreed to listen. Didn’t Spider-Man tell them all that this would work out?
Iron Man and Captain America end their handshake and Tony notices something on his hand: it is a small device.
Suddenly, Tony’s armor goes on the fritz and he screams in pain. Captain America punches him and tells him that it is an electron-scrambler developed by Nick Fury’s tech team in case Iron Man ever went over to the other side. Cap then bashes Tony with his shield and tells him that he shouldn’t have attacked Wiccan and Cloak.
Goliath grows to massive proportions the ground underneath the pro-side, sending Wonder Man and Radioactive Man flying. Yellowjacket grows to match Goliath’s size, but Wasp asks him to not do it. He doesn’t have to grow to take down Goliath.
A battle rages, however Stature grows and kicks the taller Atlas in the face. Ms. Marvel goes after Luke Cage, and Cable spars with Radioactive Man. Hercules battles Wonder Man. Yellowjacket puts Goliath in a headlock and tells the man that he thought he was supposed to be smart.
Director Hill calls the sky support and reminds them not to get involved. “Codename Lightning” is up next. They should wait and hold fire until Iron Man gives the go-ahead.
Below, Thing punches Hulkling, telling him he doesn’t want to fight. Why can’t these guys do as told? Behind the two, Spider-Man takes on Patriot.
Cap throws his shield at Spider-Man, who swiftly dodges it. He tells Cap to be careful, as he can take an eye out with that thing, like these poor guys. Spider-Man than catches the shield with his mechanical arms and uses it to hit away Daredevil and Vision.
Spider-Man then waves bye as he literally disappears. Confused, Patriot asks where Spider-Man went. Cap explains that Spider-Man is wearing a new suit designed by Stark. It is bulletproof, can glide, and has a stealth-mode.
Not to mention that “butt-kicking” button, says Spider-Man as he reappears in front of Cap and bashes him with his own shield.
Nearby, the motionless Iron Man tells his suit to reroute power systems and reboot. The suit complies, and Iron Man is back online. He immediately flies towards Cap. Capt punches Spider-Man away, but does not notice Iron Man. Doc Samson has Hercules in a headlock, but Hercules sees Iron Man heading towards Cap and warns his leader.
It is too late. Iron Man slams Cap through a concrete wall. The tattered Cap, however, gets up and tries to attack Iron Man, but Tony tells him that he is wasting his time. He punches Cap in the face and tells him that his armor has recorded Cap’s every punch. It knows what move Cap will make next.
Iron Man then hits Cap with a dangerous punch, sending blood, sweat and costume into the air.
Enraged, Hercules throws Samson away and tells the filthy traitors to get away. Iron Man is killing Captain America! With ease, he pummels She-Hulk and Spider-Man away and tells Captain America that he is coming.
An agent tells Director Hill that five hundred more Cape-Killers are surrounding the perimeter. They are awaiting orders. Hill tells the man to put the Cape Killers on standby. “Codename Lightning” has first pass at this.
Suddenly, a bolt of lightning crashes down and blasts Hercules off the ground and into the air. Hawkeye, Luke Cage and Cloak stop dead in their tracks in confusion, but a barrage of lighting bolts blasts them too.
Cable and Daredevil look up into the sky. “My god…” says Daredevil.
Up above, Thor stands triumphant, wielding Mjolnir.