Ventura, California, population 97,000, sixty miles up 101 from Los Angeles, it’s famous for it’s beaches, it’s citrus fruit…and for the last year or so, it’s colourful residents - Force Works! One such member, John Walker a.k.a. USAgent, a familiar sight, ripping through town on his powerful force-cycle. The handsome hero is returning from his parent’s grave-side, a trip he makes every few months, a solemn journey into his past to remind him who he is. Every time, Walker returns to Ventura clear-headed and refreshed. The locals wave as he rides through. They like the reassurance of having one of America’s premier super teams in their backyards. ‘Guys!’ USAgent calls out as he waves to some local police. ‘Hey, fella!’ one of them calls back.
And on a fine, promising day like this, there are other distractions, too. When USAgent stops at the traffic lights, a young woman on the sidewalk exclaims ‘You’re USAgent! Honestly, I’m totally your biggest fan!’ and asks if she can get his autograph. ‘Sure you can, sweetheart’ USAgent replies. ‘I mean, it’s like so totally wow to meet you like this, and I hope you don’t mind or anything, but -’ the woman begins, before USAgent interrupts her, asking what her name is, when suddenly, a dark shadow looms overhead. ‘Uh…can we do this later?’ Walker remarks as he looks up at the huge spaceship that has materialized over the city. It is the size of a city block, and it hangs in the sky, as silent as a cloud, blotting out the Californian sun. ‘Omigawd!’ the woman gasps. Civilians on the sidewalk begin to scream, and USAgent knows that this fine, promising day, just turned lousy.
‘This ain’t good. Nothing that big could be good’ USAgent declares, adding that he thought Force Works had marked the “no close encounters” box after the beef with the Skrulls. No more speculation, USAgent swings the force-cycle around and kicks in the turbo-assist, while the anxious shouts of the Venturans fade behind him as he speeds off. Already the great ship is moving south, following route 1010 to the coastal desert. With a sick feeling USAgent knows where the ship must be going. He triggers the communications stud: ‘Agent to Works HQ! Respond, guys!’ he calls out. ‘C’mon, Plato! At least you must be listening! Respond, blast it!’ Walker shouts, but he gets no response and decides that this really isn’t good.
Off-road, he stows the force-cycle in cactus scrub and lies on the rocky face surrounding Works HQ. Silent and monolithic, the slab-ship hangs over the Works HQ, just as USAgent predicted. Examining the situation, USAgent decides that the front door, the vehicle egress and the private lobby are all out of question as possible entry points - but, there is always the air-ducts. He slides down the side of the cliff-face with ease, and enters the air-duct. USAgent was born and raised to think ahead. He had carefully memorized the circulation system plan within days of moving into the Works HQ “just covering all the basics” he said when his teammates mocked his efforts. Now that effort serves him well. A nine meter drop, a hundred meter crawl brings him up to the Works hangar-bay. Sliding the grate up from the floor, USAgent is greeted by cool, dark silence.
The power is off, and there is no hum of air conditioners, no flash of the red telltales on the security monitors. A quick check of the nearest comm-station shows Walker that Plato is off-line as well. ‘Blast! Even the Recorder never screwed things this royally!’ USAgent thinks to himself, referring to Force Works’ former associate. Walker realizes that the Recorder kept systems running so he could use them - but whoever did this pulled the whole darn plug. Walker hears someone coming, so he squats down behind the comm-station to stay out of sight and size up the competition. There is the sound of a communicator device, and a voice can be heard: ‘Search party report!’. One of the two figures skulking around in the hangar bay, pushing something along, announces that hangar level is secure and that they just bagged the last one. ‘We’ll be with you shortly’.
USAgent realizes that the voices are gruff, thick and inhuman. He is glad he cannot see their faces. But, as their cross a pool of sunlight, USAgent sees all too well what is inside the coffin-like pod they are pushing - Fisher Todd. ‘They got Fisher Todd in that blamed box! Poor sucker looks like he’s in a coma’ USAgent tells himself as he sees the motionless tech-expert. USAgent waits three minutes until he is sure that the enemy has gone. Then he moves, as silent as the building around him. The intruders have grabbed the Works’ chief technician. There is no telling who else has fallen into their clutches. Fearing the worst, Walker moves toward the Works residential level. USAgent always fears the worst. That way, he is never disappointed.
Walker ignites his photon shield at a low-power level, and it lights up the dining room. He sees a meal for three set out, half-eaten, overturned glasses. On the carpet, dropped as if in some rush for the door, he finds Amanda Chaney’s Dictaphone. Walker has never seen her without it. He turns it on, and Amanda’s voice is heard: ‘Contact USA Today to confirm interview with Scarlet Witch. Accept on Spider-Woman’s behalf invitation to open Ventura child care center. Purchase gift for Rachel’s birthday. Appr’ Amanda’s voice is then cut off, by a loud SSHSSLKMMFF noise. ‘What on Earth was th-’ Amanda continued. But that is all she wrote.
USAgent enters Spider-Woman’s quarters, the signs of a desperate struggle are self-evident. Furniture is overturned, a mirror lies broken on the floor. Walker knows Spider-Woman was here, the dissolving gossamer of her psi-web is proof of that. He looks down at one of Rachel’s toys, but he doesn’t want to think any further.
One floor below, is the Chaos Vault, the heart of the entire Force Works operation, this room is usually singing with activity. The death-quiet makes USAgent shudder. The mighty Chaos Computer has been operating continuously since the team’s conception. The place doesn’t look right without it’s swirling multi-colored displays. Sitting down at the console, Walker picks up a spilled coffee mug. It is still warm. He wishes he had gotten here soon. Opening up a panel on his gloves, Walker plugs an power feed into his gauntlet and uses it’s energy to wake up the local systems. The deck comes to life, and USAgent sees the last ten minutes of the building’s log.
Flashback scenes, ten minutes ago, revealed to USAgent in the present:
Inside the Vroom Room, Spider-Woman a.k.a. Julia Carpenter darts about several hologram robots, making them look stupid. But USAgent knows they aren’t stupid, that they are all level nine - and he to him, Spider-Woman has never looked more beautiful. Julia lands, turns and swings to kick one of the robots - but then she disappears, with the screen obliterating her in a scowl of white noise.
Within the Chaos Vault, Wanda Maximoff and Tony Stark a.k.a. Scarlet Witch and Iron Man, respectively, were deep in conversation. ‘…if we can’t even talk about it?’ USAgent hears Wanda say. ‘Talk about what? What is your problem, Wanda?’ Iron Man retorts. ‘As if you don’t know!’ Wanda declares. ‘Command and structure, Mr Stark. I am meant to be in charge, or had you forgotten you’d ever said that?’ Wanda reminds Iron Man, before telling him that if he wants to review the situation, that is fine, but they need to talk about it. ‘You’re in charge. I said so, didn’t I?’ Tony mutters. Wanda tells him that he talks the talk but doesn’t walk the walk, causing Tony to slam his coffee mug down. ‘Spare me the aphorisms, lady!’ Tony shouts. ‘Well, pardon me for being direct, Anthony…’ Wanda remarks, before Tony notices the alert on panel nine flashing, and asks Wanda how long it had been on for. But they are gone - eaten by the white noise.
In Century’s quarters, the “alien freak boy”, as USAgent calls him, is meditating. Walker can almost smell the lotus-flower scent of Century’s vile incense candles. Then there is a sound. Century looks up and utters a damning word: ‘You!’, before there is more white noise.
‘Oh, “YOU”, is it?’ Walker shouts, slamming his fists against the console. ‘I mighta guessed our ET flatmate would know what was going on!’ USAgent declares. ‘Blast you, Century! I never trusted you, blue-boy! And it looks like I was flaming right!’ Walker exclaims. Suddenly, ‘Hello, pinhead’ a voice calls out, as a large figure steps up from behind USAgent and grabs him. ‘Get off, my bozo!’ Walker shouts, using his augmented strength to punch the alien square across the Chaos Vault. The stone-like alien gets up and turns back to USAgent: ‘Bozo? I’m just guessing, but is that a term of abuse?’ he enquires. He remarks that he is not conversant with this planet’s slang, but that “bozo” sounds pretty uncomplimentary to him. ‘So I’ll work on the assumption that you just insulted me’ the alien declares, striding back over to USAgent, he raises his fist to punch down hard, boasting that he will smack USAgent’s head off. ‘Shield ignite!’ Walker exclaims, just in time, as the alien’s hand cracks against the powerful photon shield. The alien screams in pain, crying out for his hand. ‘See ya, wuss! Hope ya find someone to kiss that better!’ USAgent exclaims as he turns and runs from the Chaos Vault.
The atrium opens before USAgent, who exclaims ‘Oh, man!’ as he sees four aliens ahead of him - standing over the coffin-like pods containing Iron Man, Scarlet Witch, Spider-Woman and her daughter Rachel, Fisher Todd and Amanda Chaney. ‘All of them! Ya got all of them!’ Walker exclaims. A red-skinned alien turns around: ‘No…it seems we missed one’ he grins. Walker ignites his shield, while the other aliens all rush towards him. ‘Get him! Nail his human hide!’ a green-skinned alien declares. But as he lunges towards USAgent, Walker releases is shield, shooting a photon blast at the alien and knocking him back.
The red-skinned alien uses his large staff to knock USAgent from behind. ‘He’s down!’ he calls out to his teammate, a strange creature with a beaked face called Kiwi. ‘On it!’ Kiwi replies, addressing the red-skinned alien as Skewer. Kiwi dives towards Walker, who struggles to get up, but just in time, he rolls backwards and kicks Kiwi as the alien reaches him. ‘Guess again, Donald Duck!’ Walker exclaims as Kiwi lands nearby. ‘Kiwi is my friend! You’ll pay for that, Earth-pup!’ the aptly named Skewer shouts, as he brings his very sharp staff down towards USAgent, who dodges the skewer just in time.
USAgent falls backwards into a large tentacled alien, who shouts ‘I got him! I got him!’ USAgent tries to break free, while Skewer, Kiwi and the green-skinned alien move towards USAgent. ‘Oh, no! Slug won’t let you go…not until I’ve finished you!’ Skewer declares, tapping the venomed point of his skewer against the ground. ‘What say you now, Earth-pup?’ Skewer asks. Walker sees the venom on the end of the staff and defiantly declares ‘Why don’t you go s-’, but he doesn’t finish his sentence, as Century teleports into the atrium. ‘Enough!’ Century shouts, knocking Skewer and the others aside. ‘Century?’ Walker remarks, while Century’s attack is over before the flash of his teleport gate has faded.
For Century’s second attack, he slices Slug with his staff, Parallax, causing the gooey blob to release USAgent as it squeals in pain. Kiwi dives towards Century: ‘It’s him! It’s the merchandise! Don’t let him escape for Klakk’s sake - or the broker will incinerate our brains!’ Before Kiwi can strike, Parallax whirls, and Century tells USAgent to stay close and make no sudden moves. ‘Oh, sure’ Walker mutters, before the two vanish in a blaze of color, leaving the aliens lying on the ground of the atrium. ‘Oh, Klakk. He gated out and took the human with him’ Skewer mutters, deciding that he best report this to his lordship. ‘But my pseudo-pods! That animal severed my pseudo-pods!’ Slug exclaims, while Kiwi tries to calm him down. Skewer tells Slug to shut up and pull himself back together. ‘You polypods make me sick’ Skewer adds.
In the blink of an eye, Walker and Century rematerialize in another part of the Works HQ. USAgent has ridden Century’s teleport before, but he will never get used to it. His head spins, his stomach churn and it takes him a full minute to find his voice. But, when he does: ‘Where the friggen heck are we?’ Walker demands to know, looking around at his sterile surroundings. ‘There’s gratitude’ Century mutters, before explaining that they are in a sealed subterranean chamber one mile beneath Works HQ. He adds that this is where the building’s power systems and primary data banks are located. Walker is shocked, and Century tells him that even he didn’t know this was here, explaining that he found it by chance / accident / fortune when looking for a place to conceal himself from the broker’s men.
‘Incredible! I’ve lived here more than a year…and all that time, Shell-Head’s got a freaking bat-cave down here!’ USAgent exclaims. He goes over to one of the machines and examines the power box - ‘Hey…“Timely Wisconsin”? It ain’t like Stark to order out for parts. What the heck isn’t he telling us?’ USAgent wonders as he examines the non Stark Industries made power source. ‘That troubled me, too. As did the lack of a door. I’d guess only a teleporter could get in here’ Century tells USAgent, who decides that this stuff can wait. ‘We got more immediate problems’ he points out. ‘You talk about this broker like you know him! From the top, and use simple words!’ USAgent orders.
Century turns to USAgent and explains that the broker’s slave-levy attacked the Works just after noon, that they came from nowhere and effortlessly took control of the base’s smart systems. ‘They had come for me. They are a part of my past. A part I had long ago ceased to remember’ Century reveals. The alien explains that the broker was once his master - or, rather owner - and now wants to make Century his property once more. Century tells USAgent that when he failed to raise the others on their comm-studs, he began to teleport from place to place, trying to stay ahead of the hunters who sought him, and that he sheltered here for a while, but couldn’t stand the waiting, so teleported to the atrium, where he found / discovered / chanced on USAgent. ‘And, unless I’m mistaken…saved your life’ Century points out.
‘Yeah? Bill me!’ USAgent frowns, reminding Century that those creeps have the rest of Force Works locked up in coffins. ‘Actually, hyper-stasis capsules’ Century reveals. ‘Whatever’ Walker mutters, announcing that they have to rescue them. ‘So tell me, if this Broker is so desperate to own you again…what’s the market price for a skinny, tattooed space hippy like you?’ Walker asks.
Thirty minutes later, on the cliffs outside of the Works HQ. The great ship continues to hover in the blue summer sky, impossible and silent. ‘Broker! Broker! You hearing me, mister?’ USAgent calls out, he is tiny compared to the ship, and scrambling along the precipice, is vulnerable - but loud. There is a FPING and a teleport signal sounds the arrival of the flamboyant Broker. ‘Loud and all too clearly, darling!’ the Broker exclaims. Walker frowns: ‘Neat tele-mat. You the Broker?’ he asks. ‘That is the name I go by. A little blunt, but then again, so I am sometimes’ the Broker replies, explaining that he is a dealer, and calling Walker a “peach-puff”, adds that he is a trader, a purveyor of unique and beautiful objects.
He adds that the Century is his property and wants to reclaim him. ‘And I can give you the going rate’ the Broker smiles. ‘Humor me. How much’re we talking?’ Walker enquires, informing the Broker that he has Century valeted and gift-wrapped, all ready for him. ‘I never much liked the creep anyway’ Walker adds, announcing ‘So let’s haggle’. ‘Let’s the Broker smiles, and a device on his wrist begins to beep. The Broker’s men are teleported to the cliff face, and he announces that he will return the captives alive in exchange for Century. ‘You won’t get a better offer, sweetie’ the Broker tells USAgent. ‘I’m sure I won’t Walker replies, before turning to Skewer and asking ‘What d’you reckon, runt?’, to which Skewer tells Walker to take the offer, as the Broker will not offer it again.
USAgent just smiles and tells the Broker that he employs some “mean hombres”, before asking him how much he pays them. ‘Nothing’ the Broker reveals, explaining that they are his property, just as Century was, so they do what he tells them, or he will use this device on his wrist to scramble their paltry minds. ‘Show him, Skewer’ the Broker orders, and Skewer reveals a contraption attached to the back of his neck. ‘Gross’ Walker mutters, while the Broker explains that all his servants have been clinically infected with Tyrmean brain-stem parasites, which feet on latent mental energy. ‘One touch of the controls and I can ultrasonically excite them into a feeding frenzy’ the Broker explains, adding that death is painfully explosive and mercifully quick, so complete obedience is assured.
‘Color me impressed’ USAgent remarks, adding ‘Paychecks just don’t provide the same incentive…do they?’, before telling the Broker that it is a deal - his friends for Century. ‘A wise choice’ the Broker replies, and in an instant, Century materializes beside USAgent. ‘Here’s your merchandise, Broker’ Walker announces, before telling Century to get his sorry alien butt on the Broker’s flying saucer quick smart. ‘I got friends to think about!’ USAgent declares. ‘Ahhhh, Century, darling! It’s been a long time!’ the Broker calls out. ‘Too long! And I have much to…’ the Broker begins as he goes over to Century and places a hand on the alien’s shoulder - only for his hand to pass through. ‘Eh?’ the Broker utters, surprised, as Century’s image fades away, replaced by Plato, who apologizes to USAgent, explaining that with only his gauntlet as a power source, that was as long as he could sustain the hologram.
‘Good effort, Plato’ Walker congratulates the computer program, while the Broker exclaims that he has never been so insulted. ‘Murder them! Murder them all!’ he shrieks, when suddenly, Century - the real Century - teleports onto the cliff face. ‘Broker…’ Century calls out as he raises Parallax. ‘Get him!’ ‘Mash his klakking head in!’ the Broker’s men call out as they race towards Century - but it’s too late, as Century brings Parallax down, slicing off the Broker’s hand with the scrambling device attached to it. ‘MY HAND!’ the Broker wails. Century announces that the Broker’s hand has been teleported to another dimension, with the control bracelet, too. He turns to Kiwi, Skewer and the others and tells them that they are free, and that the Broker can no longer harm them. ‘Yeah, but just watch how we can harm him’ Skewer begins, as he brings his poisoned staff towards the Broker, only for Century to knock Skewer aside, announcing that he wants the Broker alive.
Later, in the atrium, USAgent, Century and Plato wait for the hyper-stasis capsules to slowly restore their teammates and associates to consciousness - a decision is made. ‘What’ll I tell them?’ USAgent asks the others. ‘That my past finally caught up and it’s taking me with it’ Century replies. He informs USAgent that Skewer and the others are going to use the Broker’s star-ship to find their various home worlds, and that it is a process he wishes to be a part of. Century explains that he will question the Broker en route to the home worlds. ‘Eventually he will tell me where he found me, and what my life was before he tore it from me’ Century declares, adding that he hopes one day to come back here and tell everyone what he found.
USAgent looks down at the motionless Scarlet Witch, and tells Century that she will miss him most of all. ‘She trusted you from the start’ Walker declares. Century replies that he knows, and that he appreciates that more than he can say. USAgent turns to Century and asks him if he is sure that this is what he wants. ‘Every time you get part of your memory back, it seems to hurt you. Do you really want to know the whole truth?’ Walker asks. ‘If your life was an utter mystery, wouldn’t you?’ Century replies. Walker remarks that he would, and on behalf of Force Works approves Century’s leave of absence, telling the alien that he hopes it works out. ‘You look almost sad, USAgent’ Century replies. Smiling, USAgent asks ‘Who’ll I have to bug now that you’re gone?’
Century tells USAgent that he will find someone, before speaking into his communicator, addressing Skewer, announces he is ready to be brought aboard. ‘Activate the tele-mat’ Skewer calls out to the other aliens, all at their stations inside the Broker’s ship. ‘Activated. Century aboard’ comes the reply. Skewer orders the helm to engage the fotel drive, and an instant later, the sprawling vessel departs for the sky. ‘Good luck, fella’ USAgent remarks as he watches the ship leave. USAgent turns around when he hears Spider-Woman’s daughter, Rachel, stirring. She sits up in the chamber and rubs her eyes. Smiling, Walker calls out ‘Hey kid…rise and shine…it turned out to be a fine day after all’.