Night Thrasher easily defeats the squad of United States Guardsmen. Even with their mechanical suits and advanced weaponry, they cannot stand against Thrash’s martial arts and plasma bo staff. Wondra is relieved, but not surprised; it seems Night Thrasher, even thirty years down the line, always appears in time to save their butts.
After the brief battle, Blackwing compliments their rescuer’s battle prowess, while behind them, the gathering crowd cheers. Night Thrasher simply comments on how young the New Warriors look. Time travel, he asks?
Wondra responds to his question. Night Thrasher, however, is much too surprised to see Detective Beverly Sykes to notice. After confirming her identity, he begins to state how long it has been since he saw her last, but stops mid-sentence and instead removes her shackles. The New Warriors wonder why he’s staring at her like that, but can think of no answers. Wondra, interrupting the mysterious reunion, asks Night Thrasher if he can help them return to their own time. “Not here,” Night Thrasher says. “This crowd is getting antsy. All of you, follow me,” he says, breaking into a run. The New Warriors follow closely.
They arrive in a junkyard a few minutes later, although none of them understand why. Surely Night Thrasher’s secret base isn’t buried under a bunch of trash. They’d be surprised, he says as he hits a switch on his costume. Before the New Warriors can react, a feeling of disorientation hits them. Night Thrasher tells them it will pass. By the time it does, they find themselves in Night Thrasher’s secret base, yet do not understand how they appeared there. “Worlds within worlds,” Night Thrasher says. “We’re in sub-atomica.” He explains that sub-atomica is a dimension of reality that exists in the spaces between atoms. Wondra guesses it’s derived from Pym Particle technology. Correct, Night Thrasher says. He mentions it was one of Hank Pym’s parting gifts, but abruptly stops speaking.
Jono breaks the momentary awkwardness. What happened to all the heroes, he asks? What happened to the world? Night Thrasher offers an elegant explanation: men of power obtained even more power and grew corrupt. The process was so gradual Night Thrasher did not even notice. The original Fifty-State Initiative, he explains, was intended to provide each state with registered superhero guardians. However, the Initiative slowly began overstepping its boundaries. The public and the government, so enamored with Iron Man’s new regime, failed to notice the disappearances of many anti-Initiative dissenters. Eventually, even the superheroes who initially supported the Initiative vanished as well. Superheroes who still supported Iron Man went missing later. They later learned the missing superheroes were banished to the Nth dimension. Apparently, Iron Man believed the only thing safer than a world with trained superhumans was a world with no superhumans at all. The New Warriors – Decibel, Tempest, Phaser, Ripcord, and Renascence – fought back, but ultimately met their deaths in battle. Iron Man remained the only superhero standing. The public was so grateful to him for eliminating the supposed superhuman-threat that they gleefully elected him President of the United States of America. Gradually, he turned the U.S. from a democracy into a dictatorship. The public didn’t care. The world has become more of a nightmare ever since. However, for the first time in years, Thrash feels optimistic. “Seeing you here, now – feeling your spirit – maybe this world has hope again,” Night Thrasher says with his back turned to the New Warriors.
“Uh…yeah…about that,” Jubilation says. The New Warriors are not there to lead a rebellion, she says; they just want to get back to their world. Night Thrasher answers with a curt no. It’s impossible for them to return home, he’s afraid.
You were always one step ahead of everyone, Dwayne. You would know what to do , Donyell Taylor thinks to himself. Perched on a city rooftop, he spies Iron Man’s base of operations in the distance. Donyell’s jump through time may not have gone according to plan, but it will not stop him from rescuing his brother. He must prevent this future from happening. Iron Man must not become dictator. He notices the sign on the building that reads Stark/Taylor; in this future, Stark has even corrupted Donyell’s family name, it seems.
Not all hope is lost. Night Thrasher was able to construct a time machine out of spare parts and stolen scrap metal; surely this reality’s Iron Man, with his unlimited power and unfathomable technology, has constructed one of his own. He would keep such an invention in his headquarters, and Donyell intends to find it. I now know what to do, Dwayne, Donyell says as he swings off the building. He will make good on his promise and bring back his brother, even if it means confronting Stark himself.
“What do you mean, ‘impossible’??” Wondra snaps at Night Thrasher. He explains that Iron Man dismantled every existing time travel device, except the one he keeps in the Stark/Taylor building. However, he doubts the machine even works; otherwise, Iron Man would have used it already. On top of that, if the New Warriors wanted to use it, they would have to break into Iron Man’s headquarters, an act Night Thrasher considers impossible.
Even if it were possible, Detective Sykes would not allow it. She refuses to break the law. There must be some other way, she says. Unfortunately, there isn’t, Night Thrasher tells them. He has tried everything, yet never found a way to bypass the building’s formidable security. Phaser asks Detective Sykes why she has such an attitude; they’re not even in their reality anymore. Sykes tells them the law is the law, regardless of whether it’s right. If they cannot fathom why they should respect the law, they might as well become anarchists, she says snidely. “Works for me,” quips Tempest.
Beverly sneers. And they wonder why she doesn’t like superheroes; their first response to every crisis is to do away with the law without ever considering its purpose. Night Thrasher disagrees; yes, superheroes have been blessed with power, and occasionally overstep their boundaries, but they continually put their lives on the line to save people, and oftentimes, they lose their own in the process. However, they always answer the call of duty when no one else has the guts to do anything. They’re truly heroes.
Segueing, Night Thrasher tells the New Warriors he can train them, now that they have returned. They could finally overthrow Iron Man’s rule together. Wondra objects; has he been listening to them at all? They just want to go home. Surprisingly, Decibel sees it differently. Maybe they should cooperate with Night Thrasher, he says. He reminds her heroes do not always get to choose the circumstances of their heroism; they simply find themselves in situations that could benefit from their abilities. “Being a hero is about what you do when fate comes calling,” he says.
Wondra reminds him that kind of thinking got them into this mess in the first place. Night Thrasher duped them into something for which they were unprepared. She turns and tells Donyell he won’t trick them again. Night Thrasher chuckles from behind his mask. Sofia asks what is so funny. He tells them he has worn his mask for so long, he sometimes forgets who he is. As the New Warriors watch, Night Thrasher removes his mask, revealing his true identity: Tony Stark. The New Warriors stare in disbelief. Not quite what they were expecting, Stark asks?
Donyell Taylor, still dressed in his Night Thrasher outfit, creeps up to the Stark/Taylor tower. Since it used to be the Taylor Foundation Tower, he is confident he will find the floor plan familiar. He sneaks over to an exterior wall, activates his uniform’s ghost mode, and phases into the building. Everything, including his private access codes, remains intact. He easily slips into the air ducts, climbs an access ladder, and after shrinking down to miniature-size, slips through an air vent and into a hallway. Two well-dressed women tower over him. As he follows them into the director’s office, he overhears them conversing about an insurgent. One of the women, a brunette, tells her friend to not say anything to their boss, but the other, a blonde, reminds her he will find out eventually; better he hear it from them first.
The two women enter Iron Man’s office. He asks for good news. The blonde woman regrettably informs him of a recently uncovered assassination attempt planned for that week. Iron Man asks if Night Thrasher is involved. Nothing has been confirmed, the brunette woman says. She adds Night Thrasher was just spotted fighting a contingent of Guardsmen. Iron Man, while dismissing the two women, asks them to order the Guardsmen to increase their efforts; he wants Night Thrasher apprehended.
After the women leave, Donyell, still no larger than a rat, runs over to Iron Man’s backside and returns to his normal size. He draws his plasma knife and leaps at the tyrant, his blade aimed at the base of his neck. However, Iron Man spins around at the last moment and hits Night Thrasher in the face with a plasma beam. Too slow, he says to the fallen assassin. Did he truly think he could sneak into Iron Man’s headquarters, every part of which is linked to his armor, without him knowing? Donyell looks at him with eyes full of hatred. “You killed this world, Stark,” Night Thrasher says.
“Stark?” Iron Man responds. Ignoring this surprised response, Night Thrasher kicks Iron Man in the face and declares his intentions. However, Iron Man politely asks him to stop. Night Thrasher resists, so Iron Man grabs him by the neck and informs him he has no intention of killing him. “I don’t want to kill you, Donyell. It is you, isn’t it, Donyell?” Iron Man asks. “Killing you would be like killing myself.” Confused, Donyell asks how he knows his name. Iron Man removes his helmet in response. Donyell is shocked to see the face of his brother, Dwayne Taylor, staring back at him from Iron Man’s suit.
“What’s wrong?” Dwayne asks. “Aren’t you glad to see your older brother?”