Flashback images, narrated in the present by Prodigy III:
'I was really making something of myself. All-State Division II. Scholarship. Set college records. Popular. Cute. Wanted by every girl on campus' Ritchie Gilmore thinks to himself, recalling his college wrestling career. He remembers leading the super team called the Stingers. As Prodigy, he worked alongside Riccochet, Hornet and Dusk, and this time helped him understand himself, helped him to grow as a person. He made real strides. But then, the self-deceit, the drinking, the belief that he would never be punished or defeated or belittled or wrong. Then came the Superhuman Registration Act, and the Civil War that it sparked. He fought Iron Man, and he was imprisoned. Then forced conscription and prison again. He remembers being put away twice for railing against the system, and twice he was exonerated, but put away all the same. Now that it's over, where has he wound up...
A government job. Ritchie is working in the Department of Justice, in room 42-D, a paper file archive, with a note on the door that says “SHRA files only – so get lost!” Ritchie reminds himself that he always saw desk work as a kind of hell, but the truth is, this isn't so bad. The mindless paperwork is boring and there are all kinds of things he would rather be doing – but there is comfort in the routine, in these pages.
He taps away at his keyboard, before flicking through a file, then stamping it OFFICIAL. The file is labelled “Superhuman Registration Act – Fifty State Initiative: Camp Hammond Controlled Demolition.”
Sometimes Ritchie just sits and stares at a memo that decommissions some part of the SHRA, and he thinks that maybe his suffering was worth it. Pen held between his lips as he concentrates on his computer screen, Ritchie wonders if his actions really, truly made a difference in the outcome. He knows that these aren't the glory days, but it is something. 'And something is easily better than -' he begins, when suddenly, someone approaches him from behind: 'Are you Ritchie Gilmore?' the new arrival asks. 'Man, did you not read the sign? This is my corner of the world and I do not need any -' Ritchie starts to respond, before turning around, and seeing a military official standing behind him.
Ritchie looks shocked as the official introduces himself as Lt General Charlie Stokes, and explains that he has come here to personally deliver an urgent communique from Commander Steve Rogers. 'If you are done beating your chest, I would like to play it for you now' Stokes remarks.
He places a small disc on Ritchie's desk, and a hologram of Commander Steve Rogers appears. He informs Ritchie that moments ago, several meteors of unknown origin made simultaneous landfall across the globe. He adds that news footage of one causing the Raft to break apart in New York can already be seen in the news. Commander Rogers states that he doesn't need to tell Ritchie that they are were already on the precipice of chaos, that virtually everyone is worried over the state of the world, and no one feels safe. He adds that this event will tip things over the edge, and the riots of recent days will be nothing compared with the mass panic on the horizon. Commander Rogers reports that he has dispatched the Avengers to targeted hot spots, and the National Guard is on high alert, but that will not be enough. 'I know that you were no fan of the SHRA or the Initiative, Prodigy, and that's why I'm asking for your help in particular' Commander Rogers adds.
'What's he -' Ritchie starts to ask, but Stokes tells him to listen, as Steve declares that they need heroes – as many as they can get – to help keep the peace, but that they have to be volunteers, no forced conscription or registration this time, and he needs someone to coordinate their efforts. 'In short, Prodigy – I want you to lead a new Initiative' Commander Rogers announces, and Ritchie looks shocked.
Meanwhile, in Atlanta, a pick-up truck has crashed into the front of a store called Al's Gun and Ammo Emporium, and the driver has crouched beside his vehicle, most of his face covered by a bandana, he holds a rifle and exclaims that it is getting wrong out there in the world, and he needs protection. As the store keeper reaches for a gun of his own, the intruder shouts that it is all falling apart. 'Don't you see it? The end times are here for real – and I got a right to protect my family, dammit!' 'Not with my guns you don't!' the store keeper responds. 'Think you're the only one with people they care about? Now, you just drop that measly 12 gauge or else your family might not have anyone to protect them, got it?' he suggests.
Suddenly, a godly voice cries 'Yon proprietor has made a sound suggestion, sir', and the surprised thief turns around, to find four super heroes standing behind him. Red Nine a.k.a. Wallace Jackson, Suzy “Ultra Girl” Sherman, Tarene a.k.a. Thor Girl and George Smith a.k.a. Stunt-Master. None of them look very impressed, and Thor Girl tells the intruder that to challenge the living forest armed with but a leaf is to engage in act of either suicide or stupidity. 'You knucklehead' she adds.
Stunt-Master smiles as he leads away the intruder, whose rifle has been wrapped around his body and arms to restrain him, while the store keeper tells Red Nine that he didn't know if it would be the cops coming or them Cavalry people. 'Dude, the cops have their hands tied just keeping rioters from killing each other' Red Nine explains, while Ultra Girl and Thor Girl walk away from the ammunition shop.
“Knucklehead?” Ultra Girl quotes her friend. Thor Girl explains that she is trying to include more colloquialisms in her lexicon. 'Does this mean you're thinking of remaining here on Earth instead of taking off to Asgard?' Suzy enquires. Tarene tells her friend that it is most troubling, for even though not a true Asgardian, she chose to emulate them because they are a great people, and now they have abruptly abandoned man in this time of need, and she is told Odin has even put Thor to shackles. 'I feel I am... lost' Tarene reveals. Suzy smiles and tells Tarene that as long as she has known her, she has always done the honorable thing, for that is her compass. 'Whatever you decide, I've got your back'. 'You are a good friend' Tarene tells Suzy, who suggests Tarene never say “knucklehead” ever again. 'So it shall be' Tarene smiles.
Red Nine walks over to the girls and tells them that they will never guess who left him a voice mail. 'Prodigy. And wait 'til you hear what he wants'.
'The Initiative?' Greg Willis a.k.a. Gravity remarks as he flies between the skyscrapers of Lower Manhattan. 'Eesh, never thought I'd have to think about that outfit again' he adds. Angelica “Firestar” Jones flies alongside her crime-fighting buddy from the Young Allies and asks if the government is reenacting the Super Human Registration Act. 'Because I quit being Firestar over that garbage, so -' she begins, but Gravity tells her that, according to Prodigy, there is no more registration nonsense, although he would need to go to the orientation to know for sure. Gravity tells Firestar that he shouldn't go. 'I mean, look at the state of things around here. Everyone's been holding their collective breath for so long that a pindrop would've set them off, but instead we got a bunch of mystery meteors of certain death falling from the sky'. Gravity adds that it is like the world is slipping deeper and deeper into a waking nightmare. 'Good guys were finally the good guys again. I thought things were gonna be different. Then the Bastards of Evil murder a bunch of people in cold blood, Spider-Girl loses her dad... and poor Nomad...' his voice trails off, and his eyes close behind his goggles.
Firestar looks concerned for Gravity, and puts a hand on his shoulder and suggests to him that perhaps he should go, as seeing his old friends might be good for him. 'Eh, I dunno... they are good people, except for my old Heavy Hitters teammate, Hardball... but I'm not a team guy. Like you keep saying, you led the New Warriors and you were an Avenger, but now you just don't see yourself in that sort of role and -' Gravity begins, before Angelica interrupts him, and offers to go if he goes. 'What? Why would you do that?' Gravity responds, confused. 'Because you're my friend. And you need this' Firestar tells him, before she motions to the destruction below them, as emergency personnel survey the damage, Firestar suggests that catch up witrh Big Wheel first before he hurts anyone else. 'Deal?' she asks.
'Nuh-uh. No way' Abby Boylen a.k.a. Cloud 9 declares as she sits on a swing in her backyard in Illinois. 'Abby, I haven't even told you -' Melati Kusuma a.k.a. Komodo begins, but Abby asks 'What's there to tell? You want me to suit up again, right? Well... I don't' Abby declares. She reminds Melati that she has a job now, she is going to school and is done with the hero stuff. 'And the Initiative? Really?' she adds.
Komodo tells Abby that she knows how it sounds, and reminds her that Prodigy went to jail over the Registration Act, so he is one of them. 'Do you honestly think they won't up and decide to extend our tours of duty without consent and turn us into government lapdogs again?' Abby asks. Komodo tells her that she doesn't see how they could, before asking Abby if she doesn't want to see all the old faces again. 'Sure, if we were all at a mixer or something, but... this feels more like a wake somehow'. With that, Abby gets off the swing and walks away, waving her hand at the surprised Komodo.
'The Initiative – what it represented at various states from its inception to its end – can bring some unpleasant memories to the surface. As a former member and team leader, I know that all too well' Prodigy declares as he stands on a podium in Washington, DC. The American flag is displayed nearby, as Prodigy continues, reporting that he fought against forced registration and later fought against Norman Osborn's corrupt regime. 'So when I tell you I'm in charge, that means the mistakes of the past will not come to bear this time around'. He adds that it means they don't have to stay. 'I hope you do, but if you want to do your own thing, I respect that and wish you well'. He announces that they should know first that this iteration of the Initiative which is fully backed by Steve Rogers, requires no registration whatsoever. Prodigy continues: 'Look outside any window, turn on any TV right this second and it's crystal clear that people need our help. They need someone to be strong, to help them feel safe. To help them be safe'.
Prodigy states that while the Avengers and others are focused on the bigger picture – these hammers that crash-landed all over creation – someone else needs to be out there to help out with the rest. 'That someone else? That's where the Initiative comes in. For it to work, we need as large a group as possible making a concerted effort to keep the peace and maintain civility in this time of need'. Prodigy declares that they need sound teams with strong leaders. 'We need you!' he exclaims to the several dozen super beings gathered before him, flanked by reporters and camera crews.
Firestar and Gravity stand at the front of the group, and behind them are Komodo, and the three members of Arizona's Desert Stars – Two-Gun Kid, Johnny Cool and Supermax. Members of the Californian team the Order – Anthem, Arallune, Supernaut, Calamity and Veda. Slapstick, Rage and the Scarlet Spider of the New Warriors are present, as is Melee. Batwing and Butterball from the unnamed North Carolina team are among the gathered heroes, along with Think-Tank and Spinner of Montana's Freedom Force. The Liberteens – Ms America, Iceberg, 2-D and Blue Eagle – from Pennsylvania are present, as are Hardball, Nonstop and Telemetry, collectively known as the Heavy Hitters, formerly Nevada's sanctioned team. Frog-Man, Prima Donna and Vox – the Action Pack from Kentucky are among the group, and Star Sign and Paydirt from Hawaai's Point Men. Jennifer Kale from Florida's the Command team can be seen among the group, as can Geiger from New Mexico's Mavericks. The Cavalry members are present, too.
When Prodigy finishes his speech, Ultra Girl, a former member of the New Warriors, goes over to her fellow former New Warrior, Firestar, and exclaims 'Firestar! You weren't with the Initiative, were you?' Firestar explains that she is here with Gravity. 'Not like, you know, with him, like you and Vance, but -' Firestar stammers. Thor Girl smiles: 'Ah! You are the former betrothed of Ultra Girl’s present lover, are you not?' 'Uh...' Firestar stutters, her complexion reddening with embarrassment.
'How've you been?' Marina Zane a.k.a. Telemetry calls out to her former teammate, but Gravity rubs his neck and replies 'Not that great. It's been, I dunno...' when suddenly, Roger “Hardball” Brockeridge smirks and exclaims 'Oh, hey, look who it is. The mater of indecision, poor planning and on-the-nose aliases'. Gravity turns to Hardball and asks 'Shouldn't you be filling a jail cell with your massive ego, Hardball? I mean, you did betray your team for Hydra'. Slapstick and the Scarlet Spider look on, as Gravity and Hardball move closer to each other, and Hardball declares 'I guess you haven't heard – I run the Heavy Hitters now'. 'Run 'em where? Into the ground?' Gravity replies, before Telemetry comes between them both and pushes them away from each other. 'Hey. Whoa. Same team, guys. Same team' she reminds them as Madeleine Michaels a.k.a. Nonstop stands nearby.
The odd Think-Tank stands before Thor Girl and asks 'So, what about these hammers? Are they Asgardian, or...?' Thor Girl replies that she knows not, but she does know they are of ill portent. 'Oh' Think-Tank mutters. 'You know, ever since our little “reunion” last week, I've been... hungry' Hardball smiles as he embraces Komodo from behind. 'Whoa, ease up on the PDA there, blondie' Komodo retorts pushing Hardball aside, which is seen by Iceberg and Ms America. 'Oh, right. Of course' Hardball replies. 'Wouldn't want anyone to think you're back with the traitorous scumbag' Hardball calls out as he walks away from Komodo, who starts to reply 'We may have made up, Roger, but that doesn't mean we're -' Hardball just tells her that it is cool, as all this sneaking around makes it kinda hot, anyway, as he walks past Red Nine, Frog-Man and Star Sign.
Prodigy walks over to Firestar and Gravity, and asks Gravity how he would feel about heading up a team. 'Ah, you know... I don't...' Gravity starts to reply, to which Firestar informs Prodigy that she and Gravity can co-lead, if that is okay with him. Prodigy doesn't respond, he just thinks to himself 'Making the big decisions. Being looked to for permission. Diving straight into the depths without hesitation. So much for stability'.
It starts fast and it starts crazy. Hardball is in a casino where patrons have gone crazy, attacking each other. Firestar, Gravity and Frog-Man work together to being some children to safety in another city. There are dozens and dozens of cities, all with regular sitreps and needs and fears of their own. Komodo is working with her old teammates the Desert Stars as they confront thieves who have robbed a National Bank. There are thousands of people either scared out of their minds or taking advantage of the situation. Prodigy monitors the various teams on screens, and notes that it is a chaotic night, but gives him something new to organize, to make sense of – something to help keep his own head on straight. Anthem, Calamity and Aralune stand before a Norse temple which has been violated, while Abby Boylen looks around in shock as the grocery store she is in is being looted – and people are attacking each other. Talk of armageddon and godly retribution and monsters fuel the fires so quickly that hotspots of panic and hostility threaten to become a raging wildfire. Prodigy takes to the streets himself, praying he can dissuade some Georgetown students from attacking riot police because they fear that otherwise the police will fire first. Suddenly, the commotion stops, and everyone turns skyward – because they hear it. The thunder.
A live video feed from the Capitol Mall in Washington, where flying tank-like armor controlled from the inside, start firing at the ground below. A reporter can hardly describe what they are seeing, before the report switches to a security camera overlooking the Capitol Building – which is suddenly struck by a powerful surge of energy. Rom the chaos, emerges Skadi a.k.a. Sin, the daughter of the Red Skull, her power fuelled by the large hammer which she carries, as she walks amongst the rubble of the Capitol Building.
Atlanta, where a small hammer is tossed through a store window. A civilian takes a television from the store, before Red Nine grabs him. Rioters and civilians have taken to the streets, Stunt-Master leaps onto a car, 'HEY!' he shouts in an attempt to get everyone's attention. 'People, please! Calm down! Panicking like this will only make things worse!' he points out. 'Madness! They cannot be reasoned with!' Thor Girl exclaims as she and Ultra Girl drop down from the air. Ultra Girl points out that they have to clear a path so they don't trample themselves to death, and Thor Girl agrees. 'As I pitch the vehicles skyward to you, hurl them safely aside!' Thor Girl tells Ultra Girl, who announces that she is on it. But suddenly, a voice booms 'Good God! It's one of them!' and everyone turns to Thor Girl. 'Hm?' she asks, confused, as police officers point their guns at her. 'She's got a hammer!' someone declares. 'Can't wait for backup. I'm taking the shot!' an officer reports. 'Stop! Do not -' Thor Girl begins, but too late, as the officer fires several bullets – and they just bounce right off of her – one of them riccochets right back and strikes the officer in his shoulder. A women in the crowd of onlookers screams, and more panic errupts. '- hammer like on TV -' someone calls out. '- shooting – she's shooting -' another exclaims. ' -crushing me!' someone utters as the crowd starts to flee.
Thor Girl calls after them, 'Please do not run! I did not ire! I only wish to help you!' she declares, looking bewildered. 'I – I -' Thor Girl utters, while Stun-Master is stuck amongst the fleeing civilians. 'Help me...' he utters. Thor Girl seems stuck in place as she watches the civilians. By the time Prodigy is back at his post, the news is everywhere – not just of the terror and tragedy in the Capital... but in Atlanta, as well. Watching as dozens of people unknowingly crush each other to death, Prodigy shares Thor Girl's helplessness. He thinks about how, just a short while ago, he was hidden away in his own little corner of the world, safe and content. He think about the impossible, inevitable task ahead of him. He fears for himself, for his future. And suddenly, riot squad officers arrive, 'PUT DOWN YOUR WEAPON!' one of the officers booms at Thor Girl. Without turning around, Tarene starts to reply 'I am only attempting -', but the officer isn't interested in listening: 'NOW!' he shouts. Wide-eyed, Thor Girl turns around, and finds herself surrounded by police officers, and Prodigy begins to fear for them all. For everyone...