(aboard the S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier)
Having escaped his stasis tank, the evil Tony Stark grabs the doctor by the throat and tells Agent Mitch Carson that, if he knew what he was capable of, he’d turn his gun on himself.
Mitch replies that it’s lucky he doesn’t know what he’s capable of, and pulls the trigger. As he squeezes, Stark swings the doctor around and the bullet goes straight through the doctor’s skull. Stark then throws the doctor at him, but Carson manages to fire a shot from the floor. The bullet bounces off Stark’s chest and his skin tears, revealing an armored plate beneath. Stark grins and explains that he’s gone through a few upgrades. After going to the trouble of fixing his ailing heart, he wasn’t going to have it damaged again. He grabs Carson by the head and slams it into the wall, rendering him unconscious. “You’re lucky I’m in a good mood,” he quips.
He then turns his attentions to the Diamondback Life Model Decoy, which is still in its stasis tank. Stark drains the green liquid and she regains consciousness. As she falls from the tank, Tony catches her. She is surprised to see him, and asks what happened to his face. Never mind that, he replies, how are you?
Diamondback explains that she feels terrible. She doesn’t know what happened to her. She’s been turned into this thing. S.H.I.E.L.D. or Hydra or someone has messed with her body. Her left arm begins to morph uncontrollably as she speaks, and she says she doesn’t know how she’s doing this. As near as she can tell, she’d been brainwashed to betray Captain America to the Red Skull. She couldn’t control herself. In the end, she saved him, but they said she wasn’t Diamondback and took her away. They treated her like she wasn’t even human. She looks at her arm and wonders if maybe she isn’t human, after all.
Tony asks her not to say that. It can’t be true. Diamondback sits down, her arm spreading further out from her body. She believes Tony has been sent to rescue her, but this is the last thing on Stark’s mind. He opens a small panel on the back of her neck and she asks what he’s doing to her. He replies that he’s learning how to operate her. For instance, he’s just figured out how to shut down her motor functions. Diamondback tells him she can’t move. Stark informs her that he’s heard a lot while he’s been there. Her suspicions are correct. She isn’t human, and never was.
Tears begin to crawl down her cheeks, and she asks him what he’s saying. Stark is surprised that it even looks real when she cries. He explains that she is a highly advanced Life Model Decoy; so advanced that she can mimic the real thing in every conceivable way. So advanced, he adds, that she doesn’t even realize she is a decoy. Therein lies the fault. She is too perfect.
Stark continues fiddling with Diamondback’s computer, adding that, for all intents and purposes, she is Diamondback, Captain America’s former lover. She has all her memories and skills. She is her. Diamondback cries, saying it can’t be true. Stark tells her not to interrupt. He explains that it’s all very complicated, but there was a glitch detected early on in her model. She was never supposed to be sent into the field. However, a rogue agent tricked the Red Skull into thinking she was the real Diamondback and he programmed her into betraying Captain America. They could have just deactivated her and erased her memory, but Cap was against that. Nick Fury then agreed to keep her in stasis until they could figure out what to do with her.
Still unable to move, Diamondback asks him to stop this. It isn’t a joke. Stark tells her that Cap felt that deactivating her would be like killing her. He was right, only Stark doesn’t have any qualms about killing her. He flicks a switch on the control panel on her neck and her deactivation is complete. All the LMD’s memories are erased. He then establishes a neural link with the computer and Diamondback’s body folds into a small box. Stark then places the palm of his hand on the box and the metal morphs around his arm. He asks the computer if it is reading his commands. After a slight pause, it replies that it is. “Excellent,” grins Stark.
The box then proceeds to bend and flow around his body, forming itself into armor. Stark talks to himself, saying that he saw his colleagues die and sacrifice their lives; one by one for the greater good. He watched as they all turned on each other, as Reed Richards became a power-hungry maniac. Pitted against the Fantastic Four, he took the Human Torch’s life, but not before he scarred him. Stark then assumed control of Latveria and tried to take over the world - not to rule it, but to save it.
Richards stopped him and sent him to this dimension. He found himself on a backwards world where the Scarlet Witch went crazy, causing the Avengers to disband, preventing them from ever fighting the Titannus War and from being destroyed by that monster. In his world he was Iron Man. In this backwards, insane world, he will be Iron Maniac!
As soon as he’s finished his exposition, several S.H.I.E.L.D. agents burst into the room and confront him. They order him to surrender, but he replies that if as much as one bullet hit him, he’ll make them regret it.
(Saint John’s Memorial Hospital)
Dr. Hill walks into the corridor and says that she’s looking for the family of Curtis Doyle. His friends, Troy, Megan, Philip and Daphne are there waiting for news. The doctor informs them that she won’t lie to them - it doesn’t look good. Curtis’ chest has been crushed. He’s sustained massive internal injuries, even damage to his spine. They believe that they’ve stopped any internal bleeding, but at this point there’s no way to be sure. They’ve induced a coma in an attempt to stabilize him. The next twenty-four hours are crucial. She hopes to be able to tell them something more after the next round of surgeries.
The friends are shocked, but they realize that there’s not much they can do but wait. Daphne cries and asks why this had to happen. Why was Curtis even there? They said Spider-Man brought him to the hospital, but they’ve been saying he’s been a menace in the papers for years. Some monster decides to attack the city and he was just there? What did he ever do to deserve this? It’s just not fair. She adds that these super heroes are ruining their lives. Why did he have to be there? It doesn’t make any sense. Troy feels bad that he cannot tell them what’s been going on.
Troy goes into the room, alone, where he finds Curtis in a coma. He hopes that by speaking to him, it will help him recover. He tells Curtis that they put his personal stuff in a box, including the ring. He wonders why Curtis became involved in the fight. The X-Men took care of the Abomination in less than ten minutes. The big metal guy bashed his face in. As he speaks, Jeffrey arrives after Troy had called him earlier. He found it cute that Curtis ran away from the scene, but guesses he ran the wrong way. Troy doesn’t let him know the truth. They stand at the bedside, hoping their friend recovers soon.
(back on the Helicarrier)
Iron Maniac and the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents are in a firefight. Stark tells them they were warned, and proceeds to tear his way through them; his armor taking anything they can throw at him. His armor can replicate any weapon he can think of thanks to the neural link and the suit’s morphing abilities. As he crushes all in his path, he claims he is unstoppable.
Elsewhere on the Helicarrier, Captain America asks Director Maria Hill what the situation is. She claims they can handle it. They don’t always need to call on ‘your kind.’ Right on cue, Iron Maniac smashes through the wall and onto the bridge. Captain America, Luke Cage and Spider-Woman prepare for close-quarters combat. He doesn’t want any of the non-super-powered personnel getting hurt. Iron Maniac relishes tangling with the three Avengers, and as he catches Cap’s flying shield easily with his armor, he calls them pitiful. Cage then grabs him around the waist, but is blasted to the roof, colliding with Jessica as he hits it.
Cap realizes that it’s the evil Tony Stark underneath the armor. He pities him for what he’s lived through, but he has to realize that he’s insane. What does he hope to accomplish here?” he asks, as he deliver a flying kick to Stark’s back. Stark quickly forms a weapon from his arm and fires at Cap who hides behind his shield. “I just want out,” he replies; smashing through the window. He descends quickly, powered by jet-propelled boots as Luke Cage asks who the heck he was.
In a secret bunker, deep underground, the two scientists looking after Titannus begin the next phase of their experiments. The younger man flicks a switch, which releases the now fully re-formed Titannus from his bed. He stands up and asks where he is and who he is. “So far, so good,” whispers the older man.