Inside the icy dungeon known as the Cooler at 1637 hours, beneath Ivan Pushkin’s private estate in Borivichi, Russia, Maverick is become acquainted with his cellmate. At the present time, Maverick is surprised to see the Red Guardian, for he thought he was dead. The Red Guardian responds that he could say the same thing about him.
Maverick replies that he could, except he’s the general article while he is either an imposter or a wannabe. He knows that the original Red Guardian was killed in action a long time ago – that’s a fact. He also knew Alexi Shostakov personally and he knows that this stranger is definitely not him. The Red Guardian replies that he never claimed to be Alexi. When Maverick asks him why he is wearing the suit and asks who is pulling his strings, Guardian replies that he doesn’t like Maverick’s tone and indicates that he’s not nobody’s puppet – he’s a free agent. He adds that the Red Guardian was intended to be the Soviet Union’s counterpart to Captain America. Even though Shostakov failed in the role, the idea of a Red Guardian is still sound. With the recent collapse of the Soviet Union, the need for a homegrown hero is even greater now then it was then. In this age of shameless disgrace and corruption, his people need someone they can look up to and respect. Someone willing to take a stand and fight against oppression and injustice. A hero who can instill pride in their children – and be a symbol of hope.
When Maverick ask if that means him, the Guardian responds that he may be an idealist at heart but he’s not a glory hound or a thrill seeker. He simply wishes to serve his people in whatever way he can. He then asks Maverick why that is so hard for him to believe. Maverick replies that his life has made him somewhat of a cynic. He then indicates to Guardian that he thinks his intentions are noble and that his attitude is commendable but he believes that he’s in way over his head. Guardian assures him that he is wrong and assures him that he is well trained as a covert operative.
Maverick then asks Guardian what his angle is, to which Guardian asks him what he means by that. Maverick expands on his question and asks him what his involvement is in all of this and how did he get mixed up with Pushkin and why he is there. The Guardian replies that he heard rumors of a major hi-tech arms deal taking place between Pushkin and the A.I.M. organization. Maverick asks him if it is the same A.I.M. that is also known as Advanced Idea Mechanics. Guardian indicates they are one in the same and asks Maverick if they are confederates of his. Maverick retorts that it is just the opposite. In fact, it would give him great pleasure to take those two-bit terrorists down a peg or two.
The Guardian replies that at least on that, they are in agreement. He then adds that he did some investigating of his own and that he learned that Pushkin is going to double-cross them. He also overheard him enlisting Omega Red to accompany a raiding party to A.I.M.’s hidden fortress. Pushkin plans on stealing their armaments behind their back. Maverick adds that he will probably then keep them for himself to build a more solid power base and will sell the excess to youth gangs and rival mobsters at outrageous prices. Guardian confirms that Maverick is correct in his thinking and adds that Pushkin must be stopped. Unfortunately, he was captured before he could alert the authorities. In actuality, the only thing that’s keeping him alive is Pushkin’s uncertainty over how much he’s relayed to any of his possible associates. Once he finds out he’s working alone, he knows he will be a dead man.
Maverick responds that they will have to see about that. Guardian asks him what he means by that and Maverick replies that he’s going to get them out of there. He adds that, during his scuffle with Pushkin’s guards, he noticed that even though the inhibitor shackles he’s wearing are dampening his powers, they aren’t completely snuffing them out. It may have something to do with the way his body’s been reacting to his recent relapse. Either way, the restraints he’s wearing may not be equipped to deal with unpredictable power surges and other odd side effects the Legacy Virus has been inflicting on him lately.
As he talks, Maverick swings his body until he is close enough to wrap his legs around a stalactite. For a while, he is successful and adds that he could have sworn that he felt his hands tingling for a few moments right before he was brought down there. Tingling in that familiar way they always do whenever his powers kick in. The feeling was faint and fleeting, just like his hold on the stalactite. He continues to swing back and forth from his shackles. As he does, it feels like his arms are going to pop out of their sockets. He does his best to ignore the pain and try again. Aloud he indicates that he’s hoping that if he can absorb enough kinetic energy he can somehow overload the shackles inhibitors and he will be able to break free. After some more swinging, he is finally able to hook his legs around the stalactite and he is anchored. Once anchored, he indicates to the Red Guardian that it’s worth taking the shot and not to expect quick results for this could take a while. With that, he begins to bash his hands against the surrounding stalactites.
Over at the main house at 1730 hours, Ivan Pushkin is conferring with Omega Red, a deranged serial killer who was transformed into a Soviet super soldier after surviving his own execution. Also there are Pushkin’s personal bodyguards, Hammer and Sickle. Pushkin informs them that, now that his tracking instruments have pinpointed the exact location of A.I.M.’s hidden base, it is imperative that they act as quickly as possible. He doesn’t to take the chance of them moving the merchandise before they strike. When Omega Red asks when they should leave, Pushkin replies that it will be within the next two hours. He then informs Red that he can help Hammer and Sickle take the crates to the barracks and distribute the contents.
Red asks what is in the crates, but Hammer then asks Red why he must continue to keep questioning the master – he did not hire him for his curiosity. Before Hammer and Omega Red can get into a fight, Pushkin stands between them and informs Hammer that it’s okay and that Arkady will find out soon enough that the crates contain uniforms. Red asks who the uniforms are for. Pushkin replies that Red, Hammer and Sickle can stay as they are, but the other members of the raiding party must be properly attired. He adds that he wants them to make certain that the fools at Advanced Idea Mechanics believe that a third party was responsible for the heist. Red then asks who he has in mind to take the blame, but Pushkin just suggests for him to look for himself. Omega Red pulls one of the hoods out of the crate and recognizes it as belonging to Hydra. Pushkin indicates that considering the already existing animosity between them and the A.I.M. organization, he can’t think of anyone more appropriate for the role.
It’s 1748 hours and Maverick has been bashing his hands against the stalactites for approximately 50 minutes straight. He’s exhausted and he wonders how long he has been at this – the torch is just about ready to burn out. Just then, Maverick is successful and breaks the shackles around his hands, causing him to fall to the ground. When Maverick falls, the Red Guardian is shocked and notices that his hands are burning. Maverick pulls himself up and indicates to him that it will pass. He then frees the Guardian from his restraints. Up above the undergrounds cell, the two soldiers guarding the door hear a sound from down in the Cooler. Before they can figure out what it is, Maverick punches through the door and takes them out. As he and the Red Guardian take the guards to the brig he thinks to himself that he’s glad that he managed to expel all of the energy he absorbed with that last blast. As it is, it would be difficult enough to sneak around the complex without having to worry about his hands glowing.
Once they exit the brig, Maverick and the Red Guardian watch the goings on over at the main estate. Maverick mentions to Guardian that there seems to be a lot of activity over by the farmhouse. The Guardian replies that he’s not surprised. There’s a secret hangar inside there and he adds that Pushkin must be getting ready to mobilize his forces. Maverick indicates that they will need to stow aboard the raiding party’s transport. They can worry about how to spoil Pushkin’s plans and destroy A.I.M.’s cache of weapons once they’re airborne. The Guardian agrees.
When they get over the hill, Maverick starts to head the opposite way. Guardian asks him where he is going for the farmhouse is in the other direction. Maverick replies that he’s going back to the main house for his gear. The Guardian is in shock and indicates to him that will be a fool’s errand. Maverick replies that may be the case, but he’s not leaving without his gear and that’s final. He informs Guardian that he can wait for him by the parked tractors; it won’t take long. Guardian replies that Maverick can do what he wants – he won’t stop him. He adds that he’ll wait as long as he can but if he sees an opening – he’s going in. Maverick informs him that will be fine and that he will see him in a bit.
When Maverick separates from Guardian, he is able to slip past the patrol guards and makes his way to the rear of the mansion. Once he makes it into the mansion, he thinks to himself that maybe this wasn’t such a hot idea. After all, there’s got to be over forty rooms in the mansion and he really doesn’t have the slightest idea where to… His thoughts are interrupted when he comes perilously close to wandering on a couple of soldiers patrolling the halls. As he makes it into a room and closes the door, he thinks to himself that assuming that Pushkin is still unaware of their escape, the element of surprise is just about his only ace in the hole right now. He doesn’t want to blow it by…
As the door latches, Maverick hears a gasp behind him. He turns to see Natalya, her hands bandaged. She screams out and turns quickly to leave. As she does, she knocks over a pot and breaks it. Immediately, two soldiers bust in, guns drawn. They proceed to ask Natalya what the problem is. Natalya replies that it was nothing and just clumsiness on her part. She asks them to leave her alone. One of the soldiers points out that the whole compound has been on alert ever since those two prisoners were brought to the camp. He adds that it’s a shame that a pretty thing like her should be left to fend for herself.
As he goes to touch her, Natalya yells at him and informs him to get out right now or she will tell Ivan that they forced themselves on her. Immediately, the guards’ faces turn instantly pale as they recall what happened to the last man accused of assaulting one of Pushkin’s mistresses. As they go to leave, the soldier informs her to settle down and that there’s no need to get nasty. If she wants to be left alone, they will leave her alone.
After they leave, Maverick asks Natalya why she didn’t turn him in. Natalya replies that she couldn’t. If Ivan catches him again, he won’t be as lenient with him as he has been in the past. She adds that he doesn’t deserve such a fate. Maverick asks her if that is why she spit on him and shunned his help when they first met. Natalya replies that Ivan’s temper knows no bounds and that to do so otherwise would have been unwise at the time. Maverick asks her why she is doing so now. Natalya informs him that she was watching from the house when he first tried to escape. In horror, she watched as Pushkin threatened to kill an innocent child if he did not surrender. She adds that a lesser man would not have sacrificed his freedom for the child’s welfare. Pasha, the boy whose life he saved by his selfless act, is her nephew. She only wishes to repay the favor.
After a brief and hurried exchange in which Natalya tells Maverick where he can find his gear, Maverick indicates to Natalya that she is taking a big risk if Pushkin finds out she helped him. Natalya informs him that he won’t unless Maverick tells him. Maverick replies that he won’t and she has her word on that.
At 1839 hours, Maverick has found the room where his gear is. As he puts his gear on, he thinks to himself that, thankfully, most of Pushkin’s staff is occupied at the farmhouse preparing for the coming raid. That should buy him enough time to see if the adjacent terminal is linked to the main database. He is able to logon to the computer using a stolen password that was given to him by Natalya. He quickly sifts through various highly classified files, desperately searching for any information that may give him an edge over his foes. Eventually, he finds a detailed list of the hardware Pushkin was scheduled to purchase from the A.I.M. organization. He realizes that the list isn’t just any weapons; they are weapons of mass destruction.
It consists of state-of-the-art stealth missiles equipped with warheads capable of dispersing a cultured version of the anthrax organism over large populated areas. Maverick recalls what the anthrax bacteria does. He remembers that it can lie dormant for decades before it releases inhalable spores into its victims – causing black pustules, vomiting, fever, and suffocation in two to four days. If it’s sprayed overt a city the size of Hamburg, it could easily kill over three million people. He knows that he can’t allow that madman to get a hold of those missiles. The Red Guardian and he will have to find some way to…
Just then, something catches his eye. He takes a look at a file and notices that it seems like Pushkin did some investigating on his own concerning Major Barrington while he was under the sway of Dr. Langston’s brainwashing treatments. He notices that, according to the finding, Barrington’s involvement with his ex-wife was just a tale concocted by Pushkin so that he would be more readily do his bidding. He realizes, at that point, that it means Barrington never betrayed him and he shouldn’t have accused him like he did when he confronted him in Canada. Maverick hangs his head in his hands and silently indicates to the dead Major Barrington to rest easy and that he’s sorry that he doubted and failed him. He then defiantly denounces that it won’t happen again and that Hammer’s going to pay for Barrington’s murder. As will Pushkin for giving the order. An eye for an eye…
At 1903 hours, Maverick arrives at where the Red Guardian is. The Guardian indicates to him that he was just about to give up on him. He also asks him if he feels better now that he has his union suit on. Maverick indicates that he does and that he felt naked without it. The Guardian then indicates that apparently he’s not the only one who’s become fashion consciousness. Maverick looks out to see the men in the Hydra outfits and wonders what’s going on. The Guardian informs him that Ivan the Terrible must be planning to frame them for the robbery and adds that the plot has just thickened. Maverick indicates to him that he hasn’t heard the half of it and orders him to come on – he’ll explain it on the way.
Just then, Maverick and the Red Guardian are able to stow away on the back of a truck. As they do, Maverick thinks to himself that this is insane and that they are way beyond outnumbered. There must be over forty armed troops boarding the carrier not to mention Omega Red and Pushkin’s gypsy henchmen – all of them heading towards a heavily fortified A.I.M. compound which is overrun with even more enemies. As the plane takes of, Maverick thinks to himself that it’s a good thing he was never one to pay attention to the odds.
As Brian Johnson lies face down in a private medical clinic near Kissimmee Florida, owned by Doctor Keller, three thugs by the name of Marcus Renfield, Dice, and Speed are standing over him. One of the thugs, Speed, asks if they are at least going to rough him up a bit and teach him a lesson. The leader of the group, Marcus, indicates that they will, but first he wants to find out who he his. Before he can turn Brian over, he is shocked to see that Doctor Keller has gotten up and knocked Speed onto Dice. Marcus berates him and then picks up a bat to take on Keller. At the same time, Brian begins to stir, just in time to see Keller dodging a swing from Marcus. He realizes that even with his head throbbing he needs to help out Keller.
Keller proceeds to inform the thugs that they made a huge mistake by messing with a former Navy Seal. He then asks them if they want to play rough and grabs a chain that was on the floor. He is able to snap it like a whip and is able to knock the bat out of Marcus’ hand. Before he can gain much more of an upper hand, Dice tosses a knife into the back of his calf. Marcus follows up with a punch to Keller’s face, taking him down.
As Brian watches the goings on he thinks to himself that he can’t let Marcus and the others recognize him. To prevent that, he has to ignore the pain and charge up again. With concentration he is able to envelop himself in cascading strands of energy so he can distort his features. Eventually, he is able to transform himself into his electrically charged Bolt persona. Speed notices and warns Marcus to watch his back – freak boy is back on his feet. Dice calls out that he will get him but he is taken out by a shot of energy from Bolt.
After seeing what he did to Dice, Marcus calls Brian a little punk and informs him that he’s going to regret what he just did. His words fall on deaf ears, as Brian’s headache is getting worse, just like when his powers fizzled out earlier. At that moment, Brian pleads to no one in particular to not let his powers fail again. He then unleashes his power on Speed and Marcus, taking them out. Doctor Keller indicates that that was some stunt he just pulled and asks if he’s okay. Brian informs him that he thinks so. Keller replies that is good and then recommends that they call the police.
Later, as Brian and Keller are cleaning up the clinic, Brian thanks Keller for not telling the cops about his involvement in all this. Keller indicates to him not to mention it. Those punks have tried to convince the police that some evil mutant attacked them but he certainly wasn’t going to back them up. He then informs Brian to just relax – he has nothing to worry about, his secret is safe. Keller then indicates to Brian that he’s curious – why did he come back to the clinic in the first place? Brian informs him that he wanted to apologize to him for giving a hard time when he was there for his check-up. He adds that Keller was right about his crappy attitude. It doesn’t do him any good, it only makes things worse. He may be dying but he doesn’t want to waste whatever time he has left walking around with a big chip on his shoulder. Life’s too short to take for granted.
Keller then asks him if this means he’s going to be a more cooperative patient from now on. Brian indicates that he will, but only if he will teach him some of those moves that he used on Marcus. He wants to surprise Maverick when he gets back. Keller indicates that it’s a deal then. Brian then asks Keller if he was really a Navy Seal. Keller indicates that he definitely was and that he comes from a long line of sea lovers. He then recommends to Brian not to cross him or he will have his old buddies toss him into Davy Jones’s locker.
As they walk out of the clinic together, Brian asks Keller who Davy Jones is and asks him if was one of the Monkees. He adds that he’s not really into that retro stuff. Keller sighs and informs Brian to never mind. He then indicates to Brian that sometimes he makes him really feel old. With that final note, he takes Brian home.