In Nomad’s nightmare:
‘What… what is this place?’ Rikki “Nomad” Barnes asks herself as she examines the dank, dreary swamp that she has found herself in. Suddenly, Benito Serrao rushes towards her in his Toro form: ‘NOMAD! Wake up!’ he shouts. ‘Toro? Slow down, you’re -’ Nomad calls out, but Toro is suddenly knocked backwards. ‘No! No! A dream. This has to be a dream…’ Nomad tells herself, clutching her head, when, suddenly, a voice calls out to her: ‘Yes, Rebecca. It is a dream. And yet… it is not’. The strange, horrid voice stops speaking, and as Rikki looks around, she sees the motionless bodies of countless super heroes strewn about the swamp.
Brooklyn, Rikki Barnes sits at a table in a café, looking very glum. ‘This is the third time now, Steve. I don’t even wanna sleep anymore’ Rikki remarks to Steve Rogers, formerly Captain America. Steve tells the young hero that it sounds to him like she is stressed - between high school, making a living and the time she spends as Nomad, it hardly comes as a surprise. ‘I knew it. You’re just gonna tell me I should quit’ Rikki replies. Steve tells her that at some point, you have to stop worrying about others and take care of yourself. But Rikki tells Steve that it is not from stress. ‘What about the voice? And all the, like, background data?’ she asks. ‘Colombia, Roxxon, Project: Power, and something about a-a dragon… that stuff wasn’t a dream. More like a download’. Steve takes Rikki’s hands and promises to look into it. ‘But you have to promise me you’ll do something relaxing, all right? Take it easy’ he adds, and suggests that she lay off the espresso a little. Rikki just laughs.
‘Colombian pride festival, huh? So… this is what it’s like where you live?’ Rikki asks and she and Benny, in his human form, watch dancers making their way down a street, crowds of people gathering to watch. ‘Oh, yes. Every day is this’ Benny replies. ‘Uh-huh… right’ Rikki replies. ‘We all dress just like that!’ Benny adds, before admitting that he has never seen any of this Colombian culture, as he lived in a small place, he and his sister. ‘Until Cuchillo takes me… and Marera, she…’ his voice trails off. Rikki puts a hand on his shoulder and tells him ‘Hey, I didn’t mean to -’, before telling him that they don’t have to talk about this stuff if he doesn’t want to, as this is his new life. ‘New life, yes’ Benny agrees as he puts an arm around Rikki, both unaware that that a bald man in a suit is watching them - and holding a large syringe.
Suddenly, the man in the suit moves forward, ‘I have missed you, mi hermano’ he exclaims as he shoves the syringe into Benny’s neck. ‘Rikki…’ Benny calls out, as he collapses in the man’s arms. The man starts to change, his body shifting. ‘Benny! You - you -’ Rikki begins, looking up, as the man now appears as some sort of winged dragon-like creature. He growls at Rikki, before taking flight, carrying Benny in his clawed feet. ‘BENNY!’ Rikki screams.
Manhattan, the next day, in the high-rise offices of Roxxon, a blonde woman leans into a man in a suit in an office. ‘- so sorry running into you like that. Being new here, I guess I get nervous -’ she begins, holding his tie with one hand and a card behind her back. A short time later, she slides the card into a computer, and the screen displays ACCESS GRANTED. Soon after that, the woman walks past reception and out into an alleway, where she ditches her blonde wig and contacts Steve Rogers. Her name is Natasha Romanoff a.k.a. the Black Widow, and she informs Steve via communicator that Project: Power is real.
Aboard the Secret Avengers Quincarrier, hovering over in the sky, the Black Widow announces that he has enough data to confirm it, but that much is being kept dark - even at top-level clearance. Steve asks Natasha what she has learned, and Natasha reports that it involves the extraction and refining of a rare energy source into weapons-grade material. ‘What energy source?’ Steve enquires. Natasha replies that she doesn’t know - all that is clear is that it is a game changer, and there is a particular hotspot where this source can be exploited. She points to Colombia on a map that appears on a monitor and explains that Roxxon used the cover of a growing drug cartel to obtain the land and then built a facility over it. ‘And this hotspot is in Colombia. Any reference to Rikki’s kidnapped friend, or who this dragon man is?’ Steve asks.
‘No’ Natasha replies, adding that they now know that Nomad’s dream was more than a dream. ‘Yes, we do’ Steve agrees. Suddenly, ‘Steve…’ a voice calls out. It’s Sharon Carter, sometimes called Agent 13. She tells her dear friend that she knows how important Rikki is to him, but that before he makes any decision, they have to know what they are getting into. ‘Roxxon is destroying lives for a profit. Again’ Steve declares, adding that this is exactly the sort of mission he had in mind when he formed this team. He instructs Sharon to make some calls, as they leave for Colombia tonight.
Later, ‘You’re leaving tonight? And I’m not going?’ Nomad shouts as she and Steve, both in costume, meet in an alleyway. Steve tells Rikk ithat, right now, if he could put her on a shuttle to Pluto, he would, as it is clear that something or someone wants her to go to Colombia, so it is imperative she stays away. Rikki tells Steve that he is not being fair - that he wouldn’t even know about any of this if it wasn’t for her. ‘And what about Toro?’ she asks. ‘We don’t know for sure that he’s there, but -’ Steve begins, but Rikki interrupts him, declaring that she knows for sure that he is there. ‘But, as I was going to say, if he’s there, I’ll do everything I can to help him’ Steve smiles. ‘I don’t believe this. You know I’m not just some child…!’ Rikki exclaims. ‘I do know that, Rikki’ Steve replies as he walks over to his hovercraft, and as it takes off, Rikki clenches her fists, while Steve calls out ‘That’s why I didn’t talk you down’.
Elsewhere, Greg “Gravity” Willis and Angelica “Firestar” Jones are flying across the harbor away from the city, towards a bridge. ‘See, once two particles become entangled, if one changes in some way, so does the other - one, like immediately’ Greg explains to Firestar as he flies backwards, behind her. He adds that one particle could be on the tip of his finger, and the other somewhere near that star out there, or across the whole universe, it doesn’t matter - it is still instantaneous, they are still in lockstep. ‘This is boring you sill, right?’ Gravity asks as he flies closer to Firestar who replies ‘A little bit silly’. Gravity tells Firestar that it is not his fault the bad guys took the night off. Firestar adds that they don’t have to do the patrol thing so often, either. ‘I guess, but I like hanging out;’ Gravity replies. ‘No, I do too, it’s just…’ Firestar begins, but Gravity interrupts when his cellphone beeps: ‘Oh, hey, vid-mail. Maybe this’ll be something’ he declares.
And soon, Gravity and Firestar sit atop the bridge, with Nomad. ‘Colombia? Like Colombia Colombia?’ Gravity asks. ‘Tonight?’ Firestar adds. ‘I know, it’s crazy and we all have lives, but it’s Toro. He needs his friends, and us four are all he has’ Nomad tells them. ‘Oh, man, you know I got Toro’s back after everything we’ve been through, but…you had a dream? I mean that seems kinda -’ Gravity begins, to which Firestar tells him not to be so dismissive, what with the number of telepaths and mystical elements out there. ‘Point taken’ Gravity agrees. He puts an arm around Nomad’s shoulders and tells her that he will probably flunk out of school. ‘But who’m I kidding? I’ll go’ he announces. ‘If you say Toro’s in trouble, then I’m in. But I’m still not going with your “Young Allies” moniker’ Firestar tells Nomad. ‘That’s fine. Thank you. Thank you both’ Nomad smiles.
‘Sure, but where’s -?’ Nomad begins, as suddenly, Anya Corazon a.k.a. Spider-Girl appears above. ‘Here! Just had a quick mugging to stop’ she tells her friends. Spider-Girl reminds them that Toro saved her life at least twice, that she knows of, so this is a no-brainer for her. ‘Excellent, now…we just need to figure out how to get to Colombia’ Nomad announces.
Colombia, inside their Quincarrier, Sharon Carter sits at a monitor and radios to the Secret Avengers, ‘200 meters. Almost there. Still no sign of external security’ she informs them. ‘Copy that’ a voice replies. Steve and the Black Widow lead the way through the jungle, as Marc Spector a.k.a. Moon Knight asks ‘Do you hear that? Whispers in the air’. But the Black Widow tells him that she is sure it is just the rain forest. Moon Knight tells her that he used to come around here a lot, back in his mercenary days - it is not the eco-system he is hearing, it’s a voice. ‘And before either of you ask, no, it’s not one of my own’ he declares. Further back, Eric O’Grady a.k.a. the third Ant-Man moves swiftly alongside Dr Hank McCoy a.k.a. the Beast and asks ‘So, who’s this Nomad I keep hearing referred to in hushed tones?’ The Beast reveals that she is from another reality, one created to save Earth’s heroes from being destroyed by a most serious threat, and in that world, she served as Steve’s modern-day Bucky. ‘In this one, she’s had an ominous visions of Roxxon’s hidden facility’ the Beast adds.
‘An ominous vision. So, like, this is probably something really not good we’re walking into?’ Ant-Man asks. ‘Most likely’ the Beast tells him. ‘Oh, well, whew. It’s been almost a week since I stared death straight in the eyeballs, so…’ Ant-Man jokes, and before long they arrive at a strange facility tucked into the dense jungle. ‘Copy’ Sharon radios from the Quincarrier. Natasha points out that the door is open. ‘That’s…ominous’ Ant-Man remarks, shifting to his regular human size. As they enter, Ant-Man points out that the place seems deserted. ‘Not entirely…’ Moon Knight begins. Steve tells the Beast and Ant-Man that he wants them at the controls to this place, figuring out how to shut it down. He tells the Widow and Moon Knight to keep an eye out for resistance. ‘What about you?’ Black Widow asks. As he runs off down a corridor, Steve announces that he is keeping his promise to Nomad.
The Beast holds up a monitor and examines the energy that is flowing above them in a tube. He reports that it seems familiar, but it appears to be moving beyond light speed. ‘The energy…it’s speaking’ Moon Knight announces, to which Ant-Man tells him to stop being a crazy person, as it is creeping him out. ‘Maybe you’re right to be creeped out, O’Grady’ Moon Knight suggests. ‘What -?’ Ant-Man asks - before looking down, they see bodies scattered throughout the chamber. ‘Oh, man… what the hell happened here?’ Ant-Man wonders. The Black Widow tells him that it was a mass execution. She adds that she recognizes two of these men - the head without a body belongs to a Roxxon VP. ‘And this one is Colombia’s number one gangster, Cuchillo’. She looks at the body and adds that a drug lord and a score of Roxxon employees means something is not right.
Steve rushes into an infirmary, ‘Benito?’ he calls out as he sees Benito handrushed to a bed, a drip hooked up to his hand. Steve checks the boy and supposes that he must be drugged to keep him from transforming. Benny moans, and Steve tells him that it is okay, that he is a friend of Rikki’s. Steve starts to pull away the cuffs and assures the young hero that he is getting him out of here.
‘All clear’ Moon Knight announces as he, the Beast and Ant-Man enter another chamber, where a large contraption is in the center of the room, and many tubes with the red energy run through the chamber. Moon Knight adds that he and the Widow will keep watch for whoever is running around killing people. ‘Fascinating…’ the Beast remarks as he examines the contraption. He announces that the very peak of this conical construct meets perfectly with the point of origin of an actual tear in the Space / Time Continuum. ‘What, like a hole in reality? Where’s it go?’ Ant-Man enquires. ‘It would appear to be - oh, my stars and garters…’ the Beast utters, before telling Ant-Man to get inside the contraption immediately, as they need to shut this down. The tubes of energy connect to a large round tank at the top of the contraption, and as he shrinks down to insect size, Ant-Man asks ‘Why? What is that stuff?’
The Beast reports that it is ionic dark ant-matter, from another dimension, that is why the energy appears faster than light - because where it comes from, the curvature of time is much greater. Hank adds that the “stuff” Roxxon is harvesting is the cohesive glue of the Negative Zone. ‘And there’s something more. A magnetic structure…’ his voice trails off.
Meanwhile, Steve switches on his photon shield as a voice calls out ‘I know you - but now why you are here. I do not care’. It is the strange dragon who captured Benny earlier. He lurks behind Steve, and announces ‘The Cuchillo cartel is mine. This means my best friend El Toro is also mine. And this place - is the new home of El Dragon!’ As Benny sits up in bed, clutching his head, El Dragon slams his hand into Steve, knocking him to the ground.
Nearby, ‘Are you seriously hearing voices, Spector, or are you simply toying with Eric?’ Natasha asks as she and Moon Knight move about the facility. ‘Have you ever known me to play pranks?’ Moon Knight replies, adding that he is not prone to hyperbole or over-simplification, but this place - he feels they are in the house of the Devil. ‘If that’s the case, then people like us should feel somewhat at -’ Natasha begins, when suddenly, a grenade is thrown behind them, and it explodes, sending fire raging down the corridor. Moon Knight shields Natasha, who clutches her head, as a distorted message from Sharon asks ‘Anyone copy?’, while armed figures appear in the flames.
‘I repeat: explosion at northwest quadrant. Can anyone get me a sitrep or -’ Sharon calls out from the Quincarrer, when suddenly, her map locates a bogie from the north. ‘Is that… a flying Datsun?’ Sharon asks, confused.
Indeed, in the flying car, Spider-Girl tells Gravity that this is pretty cool, and she didn’t know he could do this. ‘Neither did I, honestly, ‘til we tried’ Gravity replies as he pilots the car. He asks Spider-Girl what her GPS says. ‘Are we in Colombia yet?’ Spider-Girl confirms that they are, and tells Gravity that he made good time, too. Firestar points out that now they just have to hope Nomad’s visions told her more precisely where they are going. ‘Um, actually? I’m guessing that’s it right there’ Gravity remarks as he looks out the window, and sees the facility down below, where two explosions suddenly rage.
Back inside the facility, ‘We can’t use lethal force!’ the Black Widow calls out as she and Moon Knight take refuge behind a wall. ‘Why not?’ Moon Knight asks as bullets fly past them. ‘Because they’re only children!’ the Black Widow exclaims as the child soldiers continue to shoot their weapons. ‘Children with rifles and military training’ Moon Knight declares. Suddenly, ‘Don’t worry about the rifles part - ‘cause we’ve got ‘em!’ Firestar exclaims as she, Gravity and Spider-Girl burst into the facility, and apprehend the weapons from the children. Nomad enters the facility, too, but she runs odd down a corridor. ‘Nomad! Wait! Where are you -?’ Spider-Girl calls out as she elbows one of the young soldiers.
Nomad doesn’t respond to Spider-Girl, instead she calls out to Benny, asking him where he is. ‘I know you’re here’ she declares, adding that she can feel it. El Dragon moves back from Steve, who has fallen to the ground. A weary Benny is out of the bed, and tries to confront El Dragon, stepping between Steve and their foe.
‘There you are!’ Nomad exclaims as she rushes into the room, ‘Benny! I’m here! I’m - NO!’ Nomad gasps as she enters the lab where the energy contraption is. ‘No! He should’ve been here!’ Nomad gasps. ‘Ah…you must be Nomad’ the Beast remarks as he sees the new arrival. As a large hand reaches out from the energy contraption, the Beast apologizes to Nomad and tells her that he really must ask that she not disturb him. ‘Rebecca’ a voice calls out, as the hand tries to grab her, knocking her back, the Beast attempts to reach her, but the hand blocks him.
A white light blurs through the entire facility, stopping the Secret Avengers and the Young Allies in their tracks.
‘Hey, Doc McCoy? Beast?’ Ant-Man calls out as he emerges from the energy contraption. ‘Think we lost contract or something. Some kinda weird brain static. Did you feel -?’ Ant-Man begins, before he sees the motionless Beast slumped over on the floor. ‘DOC!’ Ant-Man shouts. ‘Good God’ he adds, as he helps the Beast up. ‘It’s him. It’s him! I felt it, it was so powerful. I felt I know he’s back. Now he’s back’ The Beast utters. Ant-Man tells him to slow down and make some sense. ‘Who’s back?’ he asks. ‘Me’ the strange voice calls out. Nomad hovers in the air, a strange red, ghostly silhouette surrounds her. ‘I am back!’ the voice declares through Nomad - but the Beast knows who it really is - Onslaught!