Night Thrasher’s headquarters…
The New Warriors stare at the unmasked Night Thrasher in disbelief. Can this reality’s Night Thrasher truly be Tony Stark? This revelation upsets Detective Beverly Sykes in particular; after Stark put her and her partner under so much pressure to catch the New Warriors, he just up and joined them? Things are not that simple, Stark explains. This world does not resemble the one she knows at all. Wondra asks a pressing question: if Tony Stark is Night Thrasher, then who is Iron Man? Stark turns to them and gives them an answer even he finds surprising: Dwayne Taylor.
Stunned to hear their leader Donyell’s supposedly dead brother leads this fascist police-state, the New Warriors ask how this came to pass. Wasn’t Dwayne Taylor dead? “Dead doesn’t mean what it used to,” Stark says. Blackwing infers what must have happened: Dwayne Taylor came back from the dead, deposed Stark, and usurped his position, right? It must not have been very hard, Blackwing adds, to manipulate an already corrupt system.
Stark stops him right there. He insists superhero registration was needed at the time of its launch. It saved countless lives… including those of the New Warriors. Unfortunately, he adds, the system was exploited by people with dishonorable intentions. Blackwing assumes he means Dwayne. Correct, Stark says. When Dwayne returned, he believed in superhero registration more than anyone, including Stark. Using his far-reaching connections in the business world, he managed to amplify the power of the Superhuman Registration Act to a level far beyond anything Stark ever intended. He singlehandedly made the world into its current police state.
“Please,” Stark says. “I need your help. Help me end Taylor’s rule once and for all.” Surprisingly, Wondra puts her hands up and asks him to back off a bit. She only wants to get her team home. They cannot get sidetracked into fighting a war. Tempest asks why Stark needs their help anyway. He asks if they have ever tried singlehandedly taking down an entire government. “It’s not exactly a one-man show.”
Detective Sykes asks him to cut the crap. She knows Tony Stark well enough to know he always has another motive beneath his sweet talk, and demands to know what he actually wants. Turning away, Stark insists he has no regret about implementing superhuman registration, but objects to the means by which Dwayne Taylor maintains it. He blames himself for allowing things to devolve as they did. He feels guilty about not destroying the technology he invented before Taylor confiscated it, particularly the Nth Dimension Projector. If he had destroyed it when he had the chance, the world would not have to live under the iron fist of a madman.
They must get inside Taylor’s headquarters and shut down the Starktech for good, he says, clutching his fist. So it’s personal, Beverly concludes. Stark agrees and admits responsibility. However, he reveals none of this bears much consequence to the New Warriors, as the only remaining time machine, which they need to return home, resides in the Stark/Taylor Tower. Whether they like it or not, they need each other’s help.
This can’t be possible, Donyell Taylor tells himself. Time travel may get sticky, but he never expected to see his brother alive in this future. “Dwayne?” he asks, taking his brother’s hand.
Dwayne Taylor, outfitted in his Iron Man suit, helps his younger brother off the ground and embraces him. He apologizes for manner in which he greeted him earlier; he had to ensure he was not an imposter or a shapeshifter. “It’s good to see you, Donyell,” he says.
Donyell skips right to the questions and asks how Dwayne could possibly be alive after dying during that reality show. Dwayne smirks, and after admitting that gig was not one of his brighter moments, insists he is a different man now. He comments on Donyell’s youthful appearance and immediately assumes his younger brother traveled through time to get there. Donyell explains how he re-formed the New Warriors in order to gather the mystical components needed for a time machine, noting how he did it all to change history and prevent his brother from dying. To find him here is not what he expected. How could this happen, he asks? How could Dwayne have assumed the totalitarian mantle of Iron Man?
“You’re being naïve, Donyell,” Dwayne says. He explains how, after returning from the dead, he saw the protocols Stark had installed, and actually wished something like them had been in place earlier. A superhuman registry could have prevented the New Warriors from perishing at Stamford in the first place. Stark’s initiative did not go far enough, however. It clearly failed to account for all the superhumans, as evidenced by the rogue superhumans who still ran free. Dwayne resolved to take action.
Turning back to his brother, Dwayne insists things can change now because of their reunion; they can be a team again. Donyell admits it sounds nice – he has always wanted to make up for lost time with his fallen brother – but working for his totalitarian regime would go too far. “Say no more,” Dwayne says, interrupting him. For now, he only wants his younger brother to get some rest. However, he asks him to think about his proposition.
Night Thrasher’s headquarters…
Stark’s computer displays the blueprints of the Stark/Taylor Tower. Stark, pointing at an underground lab on the schematic, indicates where they will find the time machine they need to return home. The only way they can access this underground laboratory, however, is through a single utility tunnel that leads to the surface. The tunnel has no special security systems in place, but will surely be patrolled by Iron Man’s guardsmen. Jubilation immediately deciphers why Stark needs her team; he needs someone to run interference. Precisely, Stark says. Every war needs foot soldiers, after all. He informs them they will need to take out as many guardsmen as they can as they accompany him to the laboratory. Upon arrival, he will power up the time machine, send the New Warriors back home, and destroy the lab with a bomb.
Detective Sykes folds her arms and sneers. “Breaking and entering, destruction of property – this is not my idea of upholding the law,” she says. Stark glares at her. He knows what she means, but asks what she does in cases in which the law conflicts with saving lives and doing the right thing. Renascence interjects and says before she joined the New Warriors, she felt apprehensive about violating the law. “That’s because you were thinking, girl,” Beverly says. “If we abandon the law, what do we have left? Anarchy?”
Once more, Stark turns to Beverly and tries to explain his motives. The people in this world need help, and only he and the New Warriors can offer it. Would she actually allow these people to suffer under an oppressive police-state when she has the power to stop it? Or is her motto of “protect and serve” nothing but talk? He turns around and marches out of the room, having nothing left to say. The New Warriors, he invites to follow him; this will be their only chance to return home.
Donyell paces around his bedroom. He cannot sleep. Everything seems so surreal. He wants to feel grateful his brother returned from the dead, but cannot comprehend his brother’s pro-registration stance. Dwayne supports everything the New Warriors oppose! He notices a photograph on the wall of the original New Warriors and stares at it for a moment before pounding his fist against the wall. He came so close to getting exactly what he wanted, and now, things are going awry. Nevertheless, he refuses to give up, especially after fighting so hard getting to this point. He just hopes he does not come to regret the decision he is about to make.
The next morning, Donyell strolls down to find his brother, and finds his every need accommodated. Dwayne clearly wants his brother to receive the red-carpet treatment. Donyell soon finds Dwayne in the lab, overseeing the construction of what looks like a satellite. This project, Dwayne explains, is a space-based Nth Projector. Once operational, it will be able to banish superhumans to the Nth Dimension the moment they appear on the globe.
Changing subjects, Dwayne asks Donyell if he considered the proposal. Donyell confesses everything seems to be moving to fast. He has so much he wants to say, and so many things for which he still needs to apologize. He treated Dwayne with such aggression during their time together on the New Warriors. Plus, he never apologized for his affair with Silhouette. Dwayne tells him to forget about it; it’s all in the past. Besides, everyone deserves a second chance. Transitioning, Dwayne says a second chance is exactly what he is offering Donyell right now. He has such tremendous potential and now he has the chance to fulfill it. Together, they can fix the world. “What do you say?” he asks his younger brother, grinning.
Dressed in coveralls and disguised as technicians, the New Warriors follow the similarly disguised Tony Stark through the city streets. Stark reminds them to follow his lead; if he tells them to jump, they are to ask how high. Understood? Jubilation tells him he must have worn the Night Thrasher uniform for far too long; he sounds eerily familiar. Stark tells her to get used to it; after all, if any of them mess up, it could mean death.
They finally arrive at their destination. Stark hurries them into an alleyway, successfully evading the Guardsmen on the street. As they run down the alley, he urges them to move as quickly as possible. Their weaponry will eventually be detected, and he would rather be underground when that happened.
“Halt!” a voice suddenly shouts. Three Guardsmen, each outfitted in an Iron Man unit, descend on the New Warriors and bathe them in a spotlight. They are trespassing, the Guardsmen say, before demanding their names and identification. Stark, handing over an ID card, asks if there is a problem. The Guardsmen tell him to remain silent; they will ask the questions.
Once the Guardsman touches the ID card, however, it triggers its true purpose. A powerful surge of electricity courses through the three Guardsmen and short-circuits their units. With them out of the way, Stark proceeds to a manhole cover, which leads to the access tunnel, and pries it open. They have ten minutes before these Guardsmen units are declared missing, he tells the New Warriors. They must act quickly. He orders them to put on their masks and, as he enters the sewer, asks if they remember what he said earlier. “Yeah yeah,” Wondra sighs. “How high?”
After regrouping in the underground tunnel, Stark informs them the laboratory lies directly beneath where they stand. Following the building’s schematics, they run through the corridors, but before long, Detective Sykes admits something feels wrong. Just then, they turn a corner and find themselves facing an entire squad of formidable Guardsmen. The guards order them to halt; dead or alive, they are under arrest. The New Warriors do not flinch. Wondra reminds her teammates to show no mercy; this might be their only chance at returning home.
The New Warriors take the initiative and strike first. Night Thrasher hurls a cluster of energy disks at the guards. Decibel, Renascence, Tempest, and Wondra follow this up with decisive attacks of their own. The guards quickly overwhelm the team, however. There are too many guards, Sofia shouts! While she fires away with a pair of pistols, one of the Guardsmen short-circuits Blackwing’s suit and hurls his limp body into Tempest. They both fall to the ground. Another unit prepares to execute them, glibly reminding them they received fair warning. Before he can strike, however, Detective Sykes blasts him from behind with her energy rifle. She orders the standing members of the New Warriors to grab the wounded and get to safety while she provides cover fire. Her heroic deed does not go unpunished; a Guardsman sneaks up from the side and slugs Beverly across the jaw. Wondra intervenes before the unit beats the detective senseless.
With the battle advantage clearly beyond their grasp, the New Warriors retreat farther down the corridor while Decibel provides devastating cover fire. The team manages to escape. Stark reminds them not to get cocky; their ordeal has only begun. At the end of the corridor, Stark finds a computer terminal and begins entering the codes that grant him access to the lab. Wondra checks on Detective Sykes in the meantime, but Beverly assures her she is fine.
While the laboratory doors open, Stark informs the team he will route all the building’s power to the lab, which they can use to power the time machine. As soon as the door opens, however, Tony Stark and the New Warriors realize their plan may never come to pass. Standing inside, and poised to strike, are Dwayne and Donyell Taylor. “Sorry, guys,” Donyell says as Dwayne electrocutes everyone using his suit, “…but we can’t let you go just yet.” The New Warriors fall to the ground, defeated, and completely at the mercy of the Taylor brothers.