Commission on Super-Hero Activity, Washington DC. This morning, 2:43 AM…
The Commission, consisting out of Henry Peter Gyrich, Carol Danvers, Hank Pym and Dallas Riordan, eavesdrop on a call to help from Spider-Woman, wanting to hear from Luke Cage what happened. Luke explains to her that they were ambushed and taken down hard. Jessica reveals that they had an intruder at Avengers Tower, but she already took care of it. She wants to know why anyone would do such a thing.
Yesterday morning, Manhattan. 11:15 AM…
Dr. Spectrum holds Atlas in her grip, causing him to ask Photon for help. Photon notices that Spectrum’s Power Prism has shifted its wavelength attention from the last time they met. Songbird doesn’t want to hear about it and just defeat their adversary. Radioactive Man rescues Joystick from Spectrum’s Prism attack, explaining he can dissipate the construct Spectrum attacked by irradiating its atomic cohesion. Speed Demon jokes that’s great, but wonders what they are going to do about the other fifty things Spectrum is pumping out.
Songbird explains that Spectrum has been keeping them distracted, thinking it’s about time they returned the favor. Joystick is glad to see Songbird is finally showing she uses her brain too besides her good looks. She breaks a steam pipe and the steam floats towards Spectrum, but she uses her powers to hold it off, remaining unimpressed. Atlas breaks free from her holding grip, and knocks Spectrum in her face! Photon jokes he always avoided hitting people in their faces because eventually, you end up getting hit back. Songbird mentions that floating around waiting for the television cameras to show up doesn’t work for her.
Photon claims that he was trying to access the wavelength, but Songbird doesn’t want to hear about it. Photon asks Songbird if she seriously hasn’t noticed that the whole “public relations redemption” thing isn’t so public for him anymore. Songbird is surprised that Photon is finally showing some emotion. Spectrum gets back up after Atlas’ strike, shattering Songbird’s hard sound wings! Photon quickly catches her into his arms asking Atlas to finish it off. But he doesn’t know what to do and asks Radioactive Man if he has a solution.
Radioactive Man believes he can destabilize Spectrum’s constructs, but not disrupt the flow of energy from her Prism, as its emanations are unknown to him. Speed Demon noticed the Prism is actually a combination of alien energy and alchemical energy, mentioning that he and that Prism go way back. Spectrum overheard that statement and is surprised Speed Demon knows about it, and wonders who he truly is. She reveals that she woke up one morning with this rock stuck on the palm of her hand, made a costume for herself, figures out how to use the Prism, robs a bank, and that’s actually it. She demands that if Speed Demon knows anything about the Prism he shares it with her. Suddenly, the Prism’s power goes off and Dr. Spectrum falls down!
Joystick wants to know what happened. Dr. Chen noticed the Prism just… shut off. Joystick wonders if she can hit Spectrum anyway. Songbird denies that at first, but jokes that Joystick can hit Spectrum, but just the one time.
One minutes and two punches later…
The police arrive on the scene and apprehend Spectrum. The TV also shows up, and reporter Brie Larmer of the Action News Network interviews Songbird, interested to know what happened to Mach IV and Blizzard, as they were absent during the battle. Songbird claims that the team had a rough time during the whole Purple Man affair, explaining that Mach IV got injured during the battle and is now recovering. She claims that Blizzard needed some improvements on his suit so it would hold up better. Brie wants to know if they are coming back to the team. Mel believes that the two will come back once they are ready for it.
Elsewhere, at his base…
Mach IV, while listening on his battle suit, listens to Songbird’s interview. He thinks it’s smooth of her to tell him the truth but to avoid the question at the same time. At least she got one thing right: Mach IV is getting ready for action again.
CSA Headquarters, yesterday afternoon. 1:47 AM…
The group is watching TV and Gyrich is surprised that they are showing Songbird’s interview again. Carol explains that the new Thunderbolts have been on heavy rotation across all news channels since they first showed up. She asks Dallas’ opinion if she thinks that makes the team bulletproof from a PR standpoint. Dallas explains that every poll says that the Thunderbolts can ride negative publicity better than any other super-hero team out there right now.
Carol dislikes this plan of theirs and is surprised that either Gyrich or Dallas does like it. She knows that Gyrich hates the Thunderbolts. Gyrich defends that he hates the thought of an unsupervised group of Avengers even more. He believes they are only sending out a message. Carol knows that, but they are using a baseball bat to do it. Dallas defends that their division of homeland security is chartered to safeguard civilians from any potential superhuman threats. Carol is aware of that as she wrote the charter.
Gyrich is aware of that fact, but mentions that Carol is also Warbird of the Avengers and knows better than anyone that, as things currently stand, the Avengers should be considered potential threats. Carol thinks there have to be at least fifty other and better ways to deal with this mess. She’s regretting this already, but asks Dallas to catch a shuttle up to New York. As she says that, Carol remembers that there is only one way that gives the CSA control over both the Avengers and the Thunderbolts and that only she is aware of that way. However, she also knows that the experience Gyrich and Dallas have with both groups makes them very sound architects for this plan.
Later, at the Thunderbolts HQ in Brooklyn…
Songbird and Dallas are having a meeting, and Melissa isn’t pleased at what she gets to hear. She thinks it’s crazy, even: the United States wants the Thunderbolts to fight the Avengers. They are THE AVENGERS, for God’s sake. Dallas corrects that they WERE the Avengers. Now, she believes that they are something different. Something they can’t understand. Melissa believes that’s the reason why Dallas and her friends can’t control the team and that’s why they are being ordered to fight them.
Dallas mentions that the battle will take place somewhere isolated as by doing that there will be no civilian or material casualties. And Carol asked Dallas to ask Songbird to tell Photon not to tip off any news stations or else she’ll personally kick him back to Titan. Dallas tells Eric he can come out of the shadows, because she knows he’s eavesdropping.
Eric does as told, and also apologizes to Dallas for being stuck in her wheelchair again. He remembers that, when they were merged together, sharing the same body, Eric thought that was the best thing to have ever happened to him. Dallas admits that the relationship she had with Eric was one of the most intimate she ever had, but she also left because of him because she couldn’t handle the situation: it’s just not who she is. Dallas admits that, when they split up, she kept a share of ionic energy and asks Eric if he wants to take it back. Atlas doesn’t. It’s just when they were fighting Fathom Five he just wished he had his powers back so he could help. And if he wants them back he just asked Dr. Chen to look into it. Dallas hopes that something works out. But she warns Eric to be careful as long as he has the ionic energy, because she doesn’t think it has ever been a good fit for him. She leaves.
Joystick comes from the showers, admitting to Eric this is the reason why she doesn’t play the love game, because you can never win. Eric corrects Olivia that that’s a good way to start the life of a loser. Joystick doesn’t care and wants to go attend the briefing with Songbird. She just hopes it’s a chance to get some action.
Manhattan, yesterday evening, 10:21 PM…
Abe Jenkins, while flying through the city in his improved Mach IV suit, grimaces. His stomach still hurts. Figures. Photon got his throat slit by the Swordsman and healed himself through some “reality fold,” while Abe gets six weeks of surgery and rehab. Still, the hum of the flight harness feels good. It feels free and right. Abe feels like he can do this jig solo now. At their base, Songbird explains to her teammates that the Avengers will be drawn as to a response to an emergency distress call. P>
The Sentry and Iron Man fly out of their Tower, with Iron Man asking Sentry to just follow him. The Sentry is confident he can find Sandy Hook easily from the skies by his own. Suddenly, the Avenger’s plane hits Mach accidentally and pushes him out of balance, but gets caught in a giant web. Abe thinks he must be dealing with Spider-Man. But, a voice tells him otherwise, because Spider-Man would be inside the jet that knocked out Abe’s gyros thinking they need to be recalibrated. But the man claims he can fix that.
Abe recognizes the voice: it’s the Fixer! Fixer steps forward and reveals himself. Abe remembers it has been months since they last saw the Fixer and wants to know what he has been up to. Fixer claims he has been around, wandering places, saving Abe’s butt like today. But today, he’s here to make Abe an offer he simply cannot refuse.
Sandy Hook, New Jersey. Yesterday, 10:26 AM…
Iron Man reports to his teammates that their target has been sighted. At their base, Radioactive Man asks Songbird and the others, who are spying on the Avengers using their monitors, if they will be given a violent super-human to use as a lure. Songbird corrects that the statement is not entirely correct. At their plane, Cap notices their target and asks Iron Man if he can tell it’s being run by external remote or internal controls. Iron Man can’t because he doesn’t even know if their target is moving or not. Luke is surprised they are supposed to fight that thing. Spider-Man says it’s only the right thing to do, because as Avengers they are supposed to fight big things, and they don’t come much bigger than… Red Ronin!
Iron Man and the Sentry fly towards Red Ronin, who just seems to stand quietly on the grass. Sentry notices that the Ronin is enveloped in particles of energy and not electromagnetic. Iron Man wants to know why it isn’t moving. But on that very moment, Red Ronin vanishes! Tony asks Sentry if he’s responsible for it, but he noticed that the particles seemed to have shifted somehow. Iron Man asks Cap to check the Quinjet’s sensors, as he’s failing to pick up any readings of Red Ronin anymore. Tony’s systems inside his armor warn him about incoming danger, so Tony asks Cap to pull back their plane.
Radioactive Man isn’t pleased with the battle thinking it’s dishonorable. Photon smiles that that’s the whole point. Songbird knows how Dr. Chen feels, but if they have to do this, she wants to do it by the smartest way they possibly can. Spider-Man’s warning sense also discovers danger. He quickly asks Cap to pull back, but the warning comes too late: the Quinjet gets blown up into pieces!
The Avengers luckily survive, but Cap and Luke fall down. Tony manages to grab Cap, but Luke keeps falling, until being grabbed by Atlas. Spidey jokes that he takes back what he said about they don’t come back bigger than Red Ronin: Atlas has corrected his mistake. But he realizes that, if Atlas is there, the other Thunderbolts mustn’t be far away. And Spidey is correct: Songbird, Radioactive Man, Photon and Speed Demon rush into action!
Songbird’s hard sound construct separate Cap and Iron Man. Cap manages to safely land on the ground, suspecting that the plan of the Thunderbolts must be to divide and conquer. Cap wants to know why Songbird is attacking them, since she was offered membership at the team, thinking that mustn’t mean anything to her. Songbird remarks that would mean she would have killed along with Hawkeye and the others, should she have accepted the offer. Spidey, while facing Speed Demon, thinks Songbird made a fair point there.
Eric grabs Luke, asking if he remembers they used to fight over a codename neither of them is using anymore. Luke does and recalls he won the battle. Eric tells Luke he kicked his butt fair and square, and asks the guy if he knows how to swim. Luke thinks that must be some sort of racist crack. Eric is serious, making Luke wondering why. Eric tells Luke he can figure that out while swimming in the ocean, and tosses the super-hero far away into it!
Iron Man faces Radioactive Man, telling him that they don’t have to fight since they both know how it always turns out. Photon faces the Sentry, but he doesn’t want to fight his adversary because they don’t know each other. Photon jokes that Sentry doesn’t even know himself, though he knows he shouldn’t talk about that. Spider-Man, facing Speed Demon, tells him he knew he shouldn’t buy into what Jenkins what saying on TV all this time. Speed Demon defends that Abe doesn’t have anything to do with this. Cap wants Songbird to talk to him, confident she doesn’t really want to fight him. Melissa defends that’s true, but they are going to do it anyway.
Most members of both the Thunderbolts and the Avengers know and have fought each other in the past. A part of every Avenger had wished that the Thunderbolts were for real. For every villain that had reformed, that was one less they had to fight. And other superhuman villains would see their example and some of them would choose to follow it. It was that admittedly idealistic version that allowed the Avengers to tolerate the Thunderbolts’ very existence for many months. Even through conflicts and dubious roster changes, they hoped, but with the Thunderbolts ambushing them here and now, any faith they had evaporated. Fists meets flesh, metal meets irradiated skin with neither side knowing they are all thinking the same thing: “Why did it all have to happen?”
Avengers Tower, Manhattan. Yesterday evening, 11:42 PM…
Joystick tries to break into the Tower and remembers what she is supposed to do, finding it totally stupid. Songbird saw her as the best one suited for the hardest job of all. And if Olivia does it, the CSA will grant her a provisional pardon and make her an offer she won’t want to refuse. Joystick that breaking even into Avengers Tower is totally lame. P>
She manages to break through a glass and makes it into the large living room. There’s nobody at home, surprising her that there doesn’t even seem to be a security system around, like some sort of giant killer robot or something. She is totally disappointed in the Avengers. Suddenly, a voice calls out to her and Joystick realizes she isn’t alone. She turns around, and recognizes Spider-Woman, ready for action!
CSA Headquarters. This morning, 12:06 AM…
The vice-president asks if there have been any civilian casualties yet. There haven’t been any and everything is going exactly as planned. The vice-president understands that there exist personal relationships with the Avengers, but wants to know if this is going to work. Hank Pym defends that it will. He can know this for certain, as he has been with the team since the very beginning.