The New Warriors are, to put it lightly, royally screwed. They were once the Children of the Atom... until M-Day took their powers. Under the guidance of Night Thrasher, they rebounded as the New Warriors, a team devoted to fighting crime in spite of its powerlessness. Tony Stark's Superhuman Registration Act tried to steal even that from them. The New Warriors fought back, and their lives were made into a living hell of endless conflict, culminating when the feds took the lives of their teammates, Skybolt and Ripcord. Fortunately, Night Thrasher had developed a way of putting everything right: a time machine. Unfortunately, it backfired, and took them to a future far worse than their own. Now, their leader Night Thrasher has betrayed the New Warriors and joined forces with this world's Iron Man, who happens to be Thrasher's formerly dead brother, Dwayne Taylor. The New Warriors, on the other hand, sit in Iron Man's prison along with their new compatriot, Tony Stark.
Barnell leans against the thick glass of their prison cell. They are helpless; they have no powers, no tech, and no weapons. Detective Beverly Sykes, ever the contrarian, tells him they should never have relied on that stuff in the first place. Then what should they have done, Barnell asks? Fallen back on their Jedi training? Sofia asks her companions to stop fighting. Arguing will not get them out of prison. Jubilation agrees; no use bickering about the past. They need to concentrate on breaking free.
“Ah... the New Warriors,” a familiar voice says. The team sees this reality's Iron Man, the once-deceased Dwayne Taylor, approaching the cell. Beside him, Donyell Taylor, their former leader and Dwayne’s brother, hangs his head in shame. “It has been... some time, hasn't it? I remember your fire, your fight,” Dwayne says, “...exactly like it was before I extinguished it.” The New Warriors rush the wall, hurling various threats and insults. Angel Salvatore, on the other hand, asks Donyell how he could do this to the same people who trusted him. Donyell says nothing. Dwayne turns to him and orders him to make the New Warriors to understand, by any means necessary.
After Iron Man leaves, Donyell turns to his infuriated teammates and tries to justify his actions. He tried to do right by everyone, he claims, but had to put all that aside once he learned his brother was alive. This is what he always wanted; can't they understand that? Detective Sykes reminds him his brother is a tyrant. If Donyell intends to repay his loyal followers this way, she hopes he gets exactly what he deserves. Donyell reminds his teammates of his brother's accomplishments. He brought order to the world; he eliminated all the crime, all the want, and all the strife. He also eliminated all the freedom, joy, and faith, Blackwing says. Donyell continues to ignore their pleas for mercy. He turns around and hangs his head. He cannot bring himself to face his teammates as he delivers the following news. In order to ensure the time-stream remains intact, and that his brother remains alive, he must banish the New Warriors to the Nth Dimension.
Meanwhile, the captive Tony Stark screams out in agonizing pain. His torturer, wielding an electrified cat-of-nine-tails, informs Dwayne of Stark's resilience. The Extremis running through his blood gives him an incredible resistance to pain, he says. Very well, Dwayne says. He asks the torturer to leave so he can spend some time alone with Stark. “Aren't we a pair,” Dwayne says once the man leaves. “Super-hero role reversal. They'll devote a whole chapter to us in psychiatric journals for this.” He reveals to Stark that he knew all along it was him taking up the Night Thrasher mantle; he could tell by his elusiveness and his ability to avoid capture. To think, Stark had the entire world at his fingertips, and let it all go simply because he was too myopic to understand the responsibility he possessed. Dwayne merely did what Stark feared to do. Stark lifts his head and glares. He tells Dwayne to unchain him and face him like a man; then they will see which of them is truly afraid. Sneering, Dwayne raises his whip, and promises to etch such bold words on Stark's tombstone.
Outside the torture chamber, Donyell listens to Stark's excruciating screams. He enters as soon as his brother leaves. Stark, standing suspended in the center of the room, his back still smoking from the latest electrical jolts, lifts his head and asks Donyell if he came to gloat. Is this not what he wanted to see all these years, Stark asks? Donyell looks away; he only ever wanted to do the right thing. He reminds Stark that there were alternatives to superhuman registration. Why couldn't Tony understand that? “I understand that over six hundred people were killed by an act of terror that was initiated by an act of irresponsible young kids with power,” Stark says. “I also understand that if I didn't do anything, the full force of the government, and perhaps the world, would've come down on every superhuman on the planet.” He tells Donyell he understands the forces pulling at him. He understands how it feels to force oneself into a mold that might not fit, and how guilty it feels when the edges do not quite match. He knows Donyell wants to be a hero to the world, and most importantly, to his brother. Has he ever considered, however, that being the kind of brother Dwayne wants might mean sacrificing the parts of himself that make him a true hero? Donyell hangs his head. Dwayne is his brother, he says. Doesn't Stark understand how deep that bond runs? “He's a monster, Donyell. Not the man you knew,” Stark says, his rough, aged features betraying a gentle, compassionate soul. “Whatever you decide, if you get back to your time, please... look me up. Despite what you think about me, I'll listen to anything you have to say. I'll even—”
Stark screams out in pain as a plasma beam bores a scorching hole through his torso. His killer, Iron Man, stands in the doorway with his palm outstretched. Don't listen to that man's lies, he says to his brother Donyell. Donyell can hardly believe his eyes. His brother just killed Tony Stark in cold blood! Why did he do that? Dwayne tells him he had no other choice. They live in desperate times, and Stark was an enemy of the state. Donyell's eyes widen, now fully comprehending the horror of this world.
Once away from his brother, Donyell heads to the prison block to rescue the New Warriors. They don't have much time, he tells them while punching in the access codes to their cell. They ask what he is doing, but he answers only by telling them where to find the time-machine. Why should they trust him now? Detective Sykes asks. Donyell tells them he does not expect them to suddenly trust him. However, he expects them to at least have some sense of self-preservation.
Finally reunited, Night Thrasher, Blackwing, Wondra, Phaser, Decibel, Tempest, Renascence, and their reluctant ally Beverly Sykes charge down the halls of the Stark/Taylor Tower toward the lab on sub-level four. Wondra asks Night Thrasher what made him change his mind. He tells her now is not the time for an explanation. Instead, he hands her the Ka Stone, the catalyst needed to active the time-machine. If he doesn't make it out alive, he needs Wondra to use it to get everyone home, no matter what.
An explosion in the corridor up ahead halts their progress. The dust settles, and the New Warriors see a squad of armored Guardsmen blocking their way. They order the New Warriors to stand down; they are under arrest. Hit them hard, Blackwing shouts! He and Phaser fire on the units with their tech. Likewise, Decibel leaps into action and pierces one of the Iron Man units with a concentrated spike of sound energy. This is it, Jono says. They cannot afford to take prisoners.
An ear-splitting noise suddenly rips through the corridor and incapacitates each of the New Warriors. “No prisoners indeed,” Dwayne Taylor, the true Iron Man, says. “You brought this upon yourselves.” Night Thrasher orders hit team to retreat. He unsheathes his plasma blades and faces down his older brother. This battle, he says, is his. Iron Man expresses his disappointment in this betrayal. He offered his brother the whole world, and he broke his heart in return. Night Thrasher, lunging at Dwayne with his knives outstretched, thinks otherwise. After striking his brother across the face, Night Thrasher encourages the rest of the New Warriors to flee without him. Suddenly, Iron Man recovers from the blow, presents his palm, and blasts his younger brother in the back.
The New Warriors continue fighting their way to the lab. Wondra, cutting a swath through the militia with her super-strength, orders her team to not hold back; their opponents are nothing but robots. What does that matter, Sykes asks? When fighting a battle, she fights to win, no matter what! Sykes repels an Iron Man unit with her sub-machine gun. Another unit closes the distance and strikes her in the face. Meanwhile, Decibel crafts a demolition crane using his sound-tech and rips a hole in the floor. He advises the rest of the New Warriors to follow him to the lab. An Iron Man unit attacks him from behind. Blackwing repays the attack by electrocuting the Guardsman’s head. Another unit, this one with four sharp, extendable claws, sneaks up on Blackwing from behind and penetrates his shoulder. He cries out in pain and falls to the ground.
Tempest, currently fighting with two units, screams as her eviscerated husband fall to the floor. Meanwhile, Phaser rescues Wondra from an overpowering foe, and helps her to her feet. She realizes her team needs to keep moving to survive. She orders Decibel to blow the ceiling in order to cover their escape. He complies, causing the steel and concrete to rain down on the approaching Guardsmen, after which the New Warriors slip through the hole in the floor.
Elsewhere, Night Thrasher continues to take a beating from his formidable, over-powered older brother. Dwayne laughs as they fight; surely Donyell doesn’t expect to win this fight. “It's like you always told me growing up,” Donyell says. “Win or lose, no matter what the odds, if you're fighting for what's right — you fight until you drop!” He lashes out with his plasma bo-staff. Iron Man asks if Night Thrasher fancies himself a crusader. If so, he should know that of all the crusaders in the world, none still live. “So — you admit you're a murderer,” Donyell says. A true leader—one who did not possess such a fragile ego—would have found another way to serve the world. Dwayne strikes his brother in the face, destroying his battle mask.
What does Donyell know about leadership? Dwayne asks. He knows nothing of the nature of people. People are sheep who quiver at the prospect, the burden, of free will. They need someone to tell them what to do. Freedom is a responsibility they cannot handle! Exhausted and battered, Donyell hacks up a response. Dwayne never even gave the people a choice. He took away their heroes, their freedom, and their hope. He created an environment in which fear ruled just as much as their dictator. Dwayne pins his brother to the wall by the neck. If creating such an environment is what is needed to prevent the world from plunging into chaos, then so be it, he says. He sends a surge of electricity through Donyell's body.
At the sub-level-four laboratory, two technicians, upon hearing the security alarms, hurry to close the lab’s exterior doors. Before they can get the massive doors shut, however, the New Warriors arrive. Tempest points a fiery finger in one of the men's faces. “One twitch and it's all over. Now,” she threateningly says, “open the door. And don't mistake me for someone who likes to repeat herself.”
The team ties up the scientists and leaves them on the floor. They see the time-machine in the center of the room. While Wondra powers it up, Decibel does his best to delay the approaching Guardsmen. As they begin to break through the heavy, metal doors, Decibel, using the remainder of his tech's power supplies, creates an impassable barrier of pure sound. He does not know how long he can hold it. Renascence tells him not to worry; if the Guardsmen get through, the New Warriors will hold the line.
Meanwhile, Dwayne Taylor stands over the smoking body of his nearly dead brother, Donyell. He did not want to kill him; they are family, after all. However, Donyell has given him no choice. Dwayne removes his helmet and lifts his hand, in preparation to deliver the coup de grace. He fires. Suddenly, Detective Sykes appears out of nowhere and dives in front of the blast, absorbing the brunt of it. She collapses to the floor. Donyell, completely shocked by her noble gesture, holds her smoldering body in his arms.
Unrepentant, Dwayne tells his brother this is the price he pays for betraying his own blood. He knocks him down with a swift kick to the face. He offered his brother the world, and he squandered it, over something as trivial as sentiment. That makes Donyell weak. Dwayne crouches over his body and grabs him by the throat. He never thought he would say this, but he is ashamed that he and Donyell share the same blood. “I—I wouldn't worry about it,” Donyell mutters, unsheathing his plasma knife. “Because whoever you are — YOU ARE NOT MY BROTHER!” In one swift motion, Donyell reaches up and plunges his blades through the base of Dwayne's jaw, piercing his brain. Donyell looks down at the bleeding, lifeless body, and says his brother died a long time ago. After shedding a tear, Donyell picks up the still-breathing Detective Sykes and leaves.
Back at the lab, Wondra struggles to get the time-machine up and running, while Decibel does his best to prevent the inevitable entrance of the Guardsmen. Wondra asks if there are any weapons in the lab they might use to keep them at bay. Renascence sees something that might work: the Nth-Dimension Projector. Wondra tells her to give it a shot; what have they got to lose? Sofia takes a breath and flips the lever. The lab fills with an eerie green light.
Outside the lab, the Guardsmen continue to make progress against the doors, expecting a breach at any moment. Suddenly, the heavy steel doors collapse outward, propelled by a surge of green light. Behind it are the former heroes of Earth, now freed from the Nth Dimension. The combined might of the X-Men, the Fantastic Four, the Avengers, and various other superheroes quickly overtakes that of the Guardsmen.
Donyell finally makes it to the lab with Beverly in his arms. Perfect timing, Wondra says; the time-machine is finally ready. The New Warriors leap into its pit of mystic energy. Donyell, however, remains behind a moment to watch the heroes of Earth fight. These people selflessly gave their lives for the good of the world. This is their purpose; this is what they were always meant to do. Donyell wishes he could stay and fight with them, but he must return to his own world. Besides, they have everything under control. He salutes them, and leaps into the unknown.
All is silent in their headquarters when the New Warriors finally return home. They regroup themselves, and realize every one of them made it back safely. Sofia asks Donyell what happened to his brother. He tells her not to worry; Dwayne will never bother anyone ever again. He takes the opportunity to thank Beverly for saving his life. All part of her job, she says. Barnell seems surprised to hear this. Does that mean she might stop hunting them, Jono asks? Only if they stop breaking the law, Beverly answers. Jubilation Lee, folding her arms and averting her gaze, tells Sykes she doesn't need to worry about that. What, Jono asks? Does that mean Jubilee is quitting? Jubilee asks how they can possibly go on, especially after the deaths of Christine, Miranda, and Vincent. Whatever happened to being heroes, Barnell asks? They can still fulfill that ambition. “Not like this. We’re constantly fighting for our lives,” Wondra answers. “That’s not what heroes do.”
Donyell agrees. He wanted to make a difference. Now, he realizes his selfish motives hindered both that goal and the team, and accepts full responsibility for his wrong-doing. He wanted to revive his brother so badly that it blinded him to everything else. He doesn't even know where he belongs anymore. Jubilation understands that sentiment. However, because she believes everything happens for a reason, she thinks maybe their experience was meant to open their eyes to their own usefulness. Maybe they do not need powers to have self-worth, or to make a difference. Barnell still believes in what the New Warriors represented. So does Jono. He thanks Donyell for giving them a sense of purpose, and dignity. “No. If anything,” Donyell says, “you gave those things to me.”
Sofia, Angel, and Jubilee share a group hug. They will all miss each other dearly. Donyell tells Phaser he can keep his tech; he certainly earned it. As the former members of the New Warriors say their goodbyes and file out, Jubilation remains behind to speak with Donyell. When the time comes, she cannot find the words, and instead leans forward, planting a soft kiss on his cheek. Then, the New Warrior once known as Wondra turns and leaves as well.
I once had a dream called the New Warriors, Donyell ponders after his team departs. His dream, deeply rooted in the American Dream, envisioned a world where heroes were free to do the right thing, in the name of justice. He dreamt of a world where heroes would not be judged by the scope of their powers, but by the content and the strength of their hearts. Maybe one day, he will dream again.