(Battle of Anzio, January 22, 1944)
The Red Skull and his Nazi soldiers face the might of the Invaders; Captain America, the Sub-Mariner, Bucky and the first Human Torch. He barks orders to his troops to kill the costumed allied interlopers. They must not leave the beach alive! Cap rushes towards a mechanical creation with long metal tentacles and asks his comrades to cover him. If they take out the machine’s brain, the Red Skull will have nothing left but a big hunk of junk to sell at his prison camp flea market. Jim Hammond is a little slow on the uptake, not quite understanding Cap’s joke.
Red Skull warns his troops not to be distracted by their circus and to kill them all. Their rewards will be many. Cap is knocked down by a swinging tentacle and the Red Skull moves towards him, pistol at the ready. However, he is distracted as he sees his mechanical creation get lifted skywards by the Sub-Mariner, who then smashes it into the ground, taking out the entire battalion. He then helps Cap to his feet. “Nice save,” he tells Namor. “Of course, Captain,” he replies. “We’re brothers.”
(Funtime, Inc. A Stark Enterprises subsidiary, now)
Cap sits alone until the first guest arrives. Iron Man tells him that this was a ballsy move as they don’t arrange these meetings anymore. Cap replies that Tony should never have called them in the first place. Tony asks if he’s going to start with this again. “Secret meetings to decide the fate of the world?” asks Cap, incredulously. Tony points out that he just organized a secret meeting to decide the fate of the world, so he should get off his high horse. He sits down beside Cap and pauses a moment before telling him that Namor won’t come. Cap reckons he will, so they agree to disagree. Tony asks Cap if he knew that one day Namor was going to join up with Cyclops and use a cosmic force of destruction to make the world over in his image. Because, he adds, he did.
Dr. Strange then teleports in and says hello. He asks them to tell him that there’s a hidden agenda to the meeting. Tony replies that there’s a hidden agenda to every meeting. But, as far as he can tell, this one is as advertised. This is about Cap and Namor. Dr. Strange states that Namor will not come, but Tony replies that Cap believes he will. “They used to fight together in World War Two don’t you know,” he quips. He reckons Cap think if he can just look him in the eye and give him the old ‘Invaders band of brothers secret handshake and chest bump’ he can get Namor to back off and maybe get Cyclops to sober up and end all of this. Strange replies that it’s worth a try. Cap thanks him for the comment, but Strange then adds that unfortunately, he’s not coming.
“He might,” replies Charles Xavier as he enters the room. “Nothing would surprise me anymore.” Iron Man asks him what he did with those kids. Xavier is surprised by his initial line of questioning, so Tony tells him that all he knows is that they go to his school and they all turn nuts. Xavier replies that it isn’t fair, so Tony apologizes and says it was a joke. A bad joke. Xavier points at him angrily and tells him he wasn’t joking. He can read his mind. He thinks that this is partly his fault! Maybe it is, he admits, but Scott Summers is a grown man and he is his own man. This is the opposite of what he taught him.
Tony asks why he doesn’t go talk to him, but Charles tells him that he has. Tony asks why he doesn’t switch off his brain and let them get back to the Doctor Doom’s of this world. Charles snaps back, asking why he doesn’t use one of the Infinity Gems on him. He has one. They all do. Cap states the Infinity Gems are not on the table. Charles points out that they are. Each of them is thinking about it. Why don’t they use the gems to make the Phoenix disappear before anyone else gets hurt? Cap reckons that if they cross that line then they’re pretty much done for as a species.
Mr. Fantastic then enters the room as Charles takes a seat. “Doctor Richards,” says Dr. Strange. “Doctor Strange,” he replies. Tony says he loves it when they call each other doctor. He has three doctorates and they don’t see him… “Doctor Stark,” says Mr. Fantastic. He points out, just so they are clear, that they don’t touch the Infinity Gems. They do not use one uncontrollable cosmic force to fight another. Cap replies that no one is even hinting at it. Reed asks if everyone knows theirs is safe. Tony replies that his is in the safe deposit box in a Wells Fargo franchise in Portland Oregon. He’s not kidding. Reed asks if they’ve heard from Namor. Tony says no, and they won’t. “He might,” adds Dr. Strange. Reed admits that he’s surprised he ever got together with them in the first place.
Tony asks Charles what Scott Summers said when he spoke with him. He’s not making fun. He just wonders if there is anything they can work with. Charles replies that he has spent the entirety of his life teaching mutants to love and protect everything and everyone, because beyond it being the right thing to do, it was the only way mutants would ever be seen as equals. Scott Summers was his first student and the one he was most proud of. So, every minute this Phoenix makes him watch the people he truly loves use and abuse each other in the name of everything he despises… He finds himself unable to complete the sentence due to the emotional intensity of what he’s saying.
Tony apologizes to him and Reed assures him that no one is blaming him. Charles replies that they all are. He can see it in their minds. Dr. Strange reminds him that he’s not supposed to, but Charles stands and tells him that he is, and they do blame him. He’s dedicated his life to these children and it’s all gone to hell! He is having a hard time not seeing that his entire life was in vain. He damns them all for blaming him. He snarls that he is prepared to end this. He is prepared to stop Scott Summers, no matter what the cost. But, he is his son, and he keeps waiting for him to snap out of it and remember what he’s been taught. Instead, he concludes as he heads for the exit, he gets a room full of them, with all their demons, blaming him…
Once he has gone, Reed says that he understands him. If this was one of his family, it would kill him. Cap asks where he is with all of this. Reed replies that he’s playing catch-up. A little torn. There’s an argument, he states, that says Cyclops is fixing the world. The math speaks for itself. “What?” exclaims Cap. Reed knows it sounds crazy but he asks them to hear him out. Between them, this isn’t like Galactus or an alien invasion. This isn’t someone trying to ruin them. They are allies and they are fixing things. The only ones getting hurt are themselves because they keep poking them with sticks. Will it go the other way? he wonders. Will they lose control? Maybe, but one might say that’s tomorrow’s problem.
“Because they are possessed by a cosmic destructive force that they cannot control,” states Captain America. Tony Stark asks if he of all people doesn’t understand this. Reed reckons that all he’s saying it it’s already happened. He’s still researching this, the numbers, the crime, fatalities, and he’s just saying there’s more than one way to look at this.
He looks at both Cap and Iron Man and points out that considering they brought the world to war over differing ideals, he’s surprised they’re having a hard time seeing that there might be more than one way to look at all of this. He asks them to ask themselves, honestly, are they worried about the Phoenix because they think he’ll lose control of it, or are they worried that with the Phoenix under control, the world is going to be a better place with no place for them in it?
As they ponder what Reed is saying, he reminds them that if the Phoenix is tamed, then it’s because of them. Tony created the device that broke it apart, right? It’s like the accident that created penicillin. They might have done more right with an accident than most people will ever do on purpose. If things settle down and this is the world now, they should take pride in that. “And if he doesn’t?” asks Cap. Reed says in that case, he has a point. Tony asks if he’s ready to see the world change this much, this fast, this unnaturally. Does he honestly think this is okay? Reed replies that he’s not even sure what is natural anymore. He doesn’t think he ever knew. But yes, he is ready for humanity to take the next step. He’s been ready a while. “Captain, doctors,” he says as he leaves the room. Cap, Iron Man and Dr. Strange are left sitting around the table.
Dr. Strange stands and says he doesn’t think Namor is coming and he has work to do. He tells Cap that he will await his orders and then he teleports away. Iron Man then stands and pulls on his gauntlets. “Let’s go” he says. Cap replies no. He will wait. Tony assures him that Namor isn’t coming but Cap replies that this thing with Scott Summers… Richards was talking numbers. He too has numbers in his head and he knows that they can’t win. No matter what angle you look at it from, the X-Men are going to take them down. One way or another they win and the Avengers lose. Namor is their only chance. “Maybe,” replies Stark. “Definitely, says Cap.
Tony asks him to leave with him, but Cap remains seated. Tony admits that he feels bad about Xavier. Cap reckons he got some stuff off his chest. He thinks Tony should be nicer to people and not be so aggressive. They’ve talked about this. Tony puts his helmet on and tells Cap that he only does that when he’s tired, hungry or frustrated… or any combination of the three. He tells Cap he’ll see him at the clubhouse and departs leaving Cap all alone.
Cap sits there a while staring at his shield. Before long, a reflection appears in it and Cap turns to see Namor standing there. “I knew you’d come,” says Cap. Namor replies that he’s happy to see this wasn’t a trap. Cap assures him that he would never do that to him. Namor stands, arms folded, and tells Cap that if he’s there to talk sense to him, that could be worse. Cap replies that Namor is an Avenger, and he needs help. Namor reminds him that before he was an Avenger he was a mutant… and a king. Cap warns him that he needs to end this. It is going to end badly. Namor replies that he knows Cap believes this, but is that it? Cap says he is asking his brother in arms, his fellow soldier, an Invader and Avenger… to stop.
Namor replies that things are changing; changing for the better. This is the way of the future. Cap resists change and it makes him wonder what he’s been fighting for all these years. Cap informs him that he’s been fighting against people who put themselves before others and who think they are the superior race. It looks like he’s still doing it. There is a moment’s pause. Cap reaches for his shield and Namor tells him he should have had a trap ready. Cap reminds him that he said he would never do that. They are brothers. Namor says he knows and that is why he came alone. That’s why he hasn’t betrayed the trust of this group. That is why he hasn’t destroyed Cap with the blink of an eye and that is why he isn’t taking him prisoner. That is why he lives. “Who knew we would one day be fond of those horrible days of war,” he adds before exiting, leaving Captain America alone once again.