Nick Fury explains that, if they want the truth, they gotta go back. Back to 1958. And to, of all places… Kansas. He was with Army intelligence back then. An eager young spy who still thought the world was a fairly simple place. A place where the price of freedom was nothing more than the occasional war. Some dead friends and a nightmare now and then. He figured something like Iwo Jima or Berlin in ’45 was about as hairy as things could ever really get. Turns out, for a guy who still had two working eyes… he sure couldn’t see worth a damn.
On that day in Kansas, so many years ago, Fury explains, he led a group of Army soldiers. Though they were all clad in camouflage and wielding machine guns, Fury opted to lead the charge in a suit and tie, firing a small handgun. The target of their attack was a large mechanism, in the center of which was generated a purple-hued portal. Out of the portal flowed a small host of armored beings, firing purple-hued energy weapons. One of the creatures tossed a spherical object, which exploded like a grenade, killing all of Fury’s group except for Fury himself.
They’d seen aliens before, of course, Fury explains. Small groups here and there. They’d captured their share. Even killed a couple. But they’d never seen a full-scale invasion. Not like that. Not that he knew of. And he was still young enough to believe he knew just about everything. They’d wiped out the whole town by the time they’d got there, and it took ‘em a whole 10 minutes to wipe them all out too. He figured the rest of the world had a few hours at best. He planned on spending those last few hours dying as best he could… which he supposes can be said that he’s been doing ever since.
Before Fury could attack, however, something else emerged from the portal. A middle-aged, white haired & bearded man, clad in golden armor that covered only his upper torso and head, shot out like rocket and arced an impossible turn thanks to his jetpack. Still at high speed, he fired one of his two hand weapons at the armored invaders, killing two with one shot. Via his helmet’s radio, the man reported that the package was delivered and he’s clear. Do it, Howard! Do it now!
As the airborne man continued to fire at the invaders, Fury tried to make sense of his situation. If he was one of theirs, he thought at the time, he was way above his pay grade. However, one of the armored invaders got off a lucky shot, hitting the man in the midsection. In a flash, Fury was at the side of the grounded man, complimenting his flying. But there are more of those things, he told him. Looks like a whole army’s about to pour through the portal. He got any more…
Fury stopped mid-sentence, seeing the bloody piece of shrapnel sticking up through the armored man’s abdomen. When Fury warned him not to move, the man replied that he couldn’t. Guess that tells him what he needs to know, he said. Is it that bad? When Fury replied that he’d seen worse, the man asked hadn’t they all. He always thought it would be the Skrulls who got him, he then added. Not these bunch of nobodies. Watch out for them Skrulls, he then warned Fury. One of these days, they’re liable to… Aagghh! the man exclaimed in pain.
Listen, Fury told him, if there’s somebody he wants him to get a message to… somebody special he’d better tell him now. When the man didn’t respond, Fury began to prompt him again. Won’t have to… worry about that, kid, the man replied. Only folks waiting on him… he’ll be seeing himself… most directly. In Hell.
Suddenly, an explosion erupted from the center of the portal, turning its energy signature from purple to orange. The armored invaders emerging from the portal did so in flame, already dying as they arrived. There he was, Fury muses now, years later. In the ruined town in Kansas with a dying man strapped to a jetpack, looking through an alien portal… watching a whole world burn. He saw an entire race of creatures die screaming. He saw everything they ever were swept away in the flames. And he figured… well… they must’ve had it coming.
In a weak, barely audible voice, the mystery man pleaded with Fury to tell him… tell him if it was worth it. Tell him in the end it was all… The man’s voice trailed and spoke no more. Out in the distance, the burning portal mechanism listed and fell.
Holy Toledo, a man in a business suit exclaimed, surprising Fury. Did he see that?! That bomb is gonna make him a mint. He began to call out to the man, calling him Woody, but Fury interrupted, raising his pistol and telling him that that’s close enough. Raising his hands, the mustached man told Fury to ease up there. He’s on the side of the humans. Trust him, aliens can’t grow mustaches. Before Fury could respond, the man regarded the corpse of his friend, Woody, and cursed. He looks dead, the man said. He is dead, Fury told him. Tribellians, the man mused. He can’t believe it was the damn Tribellians who finally…
Looking up at Fury, the man recognized him as Colonel Fury and introduced himself as Howard Stark. He believes they’ve… He knows who he is, Fury replied. Keeping his eye on Stark and pointing at Woody, Fury demanded to know who the hell was that man who just died to save the world.
Sometime later, Fury rode in Stark’s flying car, making their way to a hidden base nestled in a mountain cliff face. This wasn’t the first time they’ve almost been invaded by aliens, Stark told Fury. Not even close. After landing in the base’s bay and exiting the car, Stark continued. And for every encounter like the one they experienced today, he told Fury, there’ve been dozens more where they never got boots on the ground. Because of men like Woodrow McCord. McCord was the gentleman he had the honor of watching die today, Stark explained. Asked if he was some sort of top-secret G-Man, Stark explained that up top this may be the Rocky Mountains, the good old U.S. of A, but, down there, there are no governments. This is the domain of one man. The man who guards the wall… between them and annihilation.
With that, Stark pulled a giant lever, illuminating a cavernous room, filled with various types of vehicles, equipment and technological paraphernalia. Leading Fury through the technological Wonderland, Stark explained that there are those of them who paid for all this, who helped scavenge the alien technology, who set this up in secret, long ago. Those of them who knew the dangers that were out there and that were going to be coming. But the man who uses all this doesn’t work for them. He doesn’t work for anyone. No government, no organization. He works for the Earth. He works for them all. He’s the first and last line of defense against those who would prey upon this planet. He does whatever is necessary to protect all of humanity from the horrors that are out there. And to ensure that no one who walks the Earth… need ever know he exists.
Turning to face Fury, Howard Stark crossed his arms and added that that’s what Woodrow used to do. Now he’s dead, same way he’s died so very many times before. And yet, there must always be a man guarding this wall. Addressing him as “Colonel Nicholas Joseph Fury of Hell’s Kitchen, New York,” Howard Stark asked Fury just how much does he love his planet. For a moment, Fury glanced up around him in silence. This thing… Fury eventually said, pointing to a rocket. It actually fly?
Sometime later, a group of extra-terrestrials gathered around a conference room table. Totally inhuman, they possessed animal-like heads reminiscent of bovines. Their bodies were lithe, armored in grey metal in contrast to their brown fur. At the ends of their arms were hands with large, three fingers. Addressing their leader, the Grand Procurer, one of the attendees noted that the harvest time will soon be upon them. What succulent new fruit has he found them, among the branches of the cosmos? The Grand Procurer narrates of a newly ripened one with barely a billion years of multicellular evolution. In detail, the Grand Procurer began to report the capabilities of the Earth and its defenses, also noting that they are carbon-based, which given the proper seasoning can be quite delectable.
However, just as the Grand Procurer began to elaborate, his head exploded with a KRAK. The source of the bullet was Fury, firing with a high-tech weapon while standing on a small asteroid, protected from the vacuum of space by armor doubling as a space suit.
Fury recalls how he took the job without hesitation. He’d been a solider and spay as long as he could remember. He figured this was the same job he’d always been doing, just… a bit bigger in scope. Instead of being sent to destabilize a Southeast Asian country that some desk jockey worried might someday be a threat to their way of life… he was taking down aliens who wanted to eat them.
Years later, Fury remembers making his way through subterranean tunnels, being led by a trio of Moloids. They soon found their creature of interest, a subterranean monster that had announced that he was going to stomp the surface world into bloody mudholes When the monster attacked, Fury opened fire with his rifle, firing luminescent green gamma ammunition.
For every subterranean monster who tried to invade Manhattan, Fury now explains, there were ten more they never heard of. ‘Cause they never made it outta their cave. Monday through Thursday, he’d be spying on hippies and commies for the CIA, but come Friday… it was into the Netherworld, to see which of the old gods was looking to use the Earth for its nesting ground. For instance, as he killed one giant, purple creature in the dimensional Crossroads, Fury realized that he needed bigger bullets.
Eventually his day job changed, Fury continues, though his responsibilities didn’t. His daily briefings began to entail information on the rise super-powered beings. On one occasion, he received updated information related to a gamma bomb accident in New Mexico, including the possible involvement of Tony Stark. At the same meeting another reported their compilation of dozens of eyewitness accounts of the supposed Man-Spider who had mostly been seen in the Forest Hills of neighborhood.
On that occasion, Fury had received an alert and immediately postponed the briefing, claiming he had forgotten his Aunt Matilda’s birthday. He had never told anyone at SHIELD about his other job during all those years and he never told anyone at all. When it comes to being the man on the wall… he never trusted anyone but himself. Taking off in his flying car, Fury went to a secret, orbital base, manned by LMDs. Two LMDs reported that they had picked someone up in orbit and that they called Fury as soon as they brought him in. When Fury asked if he had said anything, one LMD reported that he’d cursed in his native tongue. Nothing else.
As they went to speak with the captive, the other LMD reported that unit K-17 was destroyed during the apprehension and requested permission to requisition a replacement. Which one was he again? Fury had asked. He called him Marty, the LMD reminded him. Right, Marty was a good one, Fury recalled. Noting that the LMD asking him about the requisition was new, Fury decided to call him Matilda.
Per his orders, the LMDs let Fury see their prisoner alone, so it was alone that Fury first faced a Skrull. Placed up against a column, the Skrull was held fast by his shackled wrists, which forced his hands above his head. The Skrull began to demand his rights, claiming to know of his pathetic “Geneva Convention,” but Fury replied that it only came into play if he’s on Earth, and it’s his job to make damn sure he never is. So, Fury continued, he’s gonna answer his questions. First question… does it hurt when he does this? When the Skrull screamed in pain, Fury noted that the answer was good.
Not long thereafter, Fury was on the roof of a Manhattan building, looking through the scope of his sniper rifle and ordering “Matilda” to stop jabbering over their radio. He has his target. Being judge, jury and executioner came rather easy to him, Fury recalls. So easy… maybe he should’ve been worried. On that day, Fury informed his LMD that the new bullets better be as good as he says. To this, the LMD reported that they used Banner’s own gamma bomb designs. They should be able to put a hole in even someone as strong as Thor. Considering this, Fury hoped that they never have to test that particular theory.
Noting that Fury had not fired, the LMD asked if the gun had jammed. No longer looking through his scope, Fury looked at his target with his naked eye. There’s something about this one, he told his LMD. Call it a gut feeling. Sure, he’s weird and radioactive but… let’s give him a bit more time. See if maybe… he don’t turn into something special. So, on this occasion, Fury simply watched as the amazing Spider-Man swung out of range.
He was never a madman, Fury continues. He was never out of control. He did what he had to do, and he was damn good at doing it. Years went by. Howard Stark was long dead. As far as he knew, so was anyone else who might’ve ever known what he was doing. More superfolk came along, faster than he could count. He thought for a bit they might make him irrelevant but, well… He loves Steve Rogers like a brother. But not every job is for Captain America.
Case in point, one day, Fury floated through space in his space armor, holding a gigantic gun. Over his radio, an LMD asked if the mission had been a success. He’d say so, Fury had replied. Below him, the world around which he was in freefall burned, ripping itself apart as the gamma irradiated ammunition exploded from beneath its surface. The world that had been a Living Planet lived no more. His job done, Fury waited for the LMD to retrieve him in their flying car.
He’d killed, Fury now muses. More times than he can count. He’s burned worlds. Destabilized galaxies. Dethroned gods. And he did it… without any of them even knowing his name. That’s what it means to be the man on the wall. To be the invisible monster who keeps the other monsters at bay. Forever unnamed. Unknown. Unseen.
And that, he supposes, the elderly Nick Fury concludes to his audience, is in a nutshell, why they are all there. So… any questions?
Before Fury stand his recently recruited operatives – Gamora, Winter Soldier, Moon Knight, the Punisher, Doctor Strange, Black Panther, Emma Frost and Ant-Man. Their prisoner, though no less a recipient of Fury’s story, is the Orb.
Speaking first, Ant-Man responds that he has a thousand questions, starting with… why is he so old? Ignoring that question, Strange incredulously asks what Fury is confessing to there is… This can’t be true. This isn’t him. Glancing at the sorcerer supreme, Emma simply asks “isn’t it?” He doesn’t see a problem, the Punisher announces.
He’s still not telling the whole truth, the Orb interjects. He’s still not telling them about the… Suddenly, the Orb doubles over in pain. When Moon Knight asks what’s wrong with him, Fury explains that his body is still absorbing what he stole from the Moon. Speaking to his LMDs, Fury orders one to put him in the interrogation room. The clock is ticking. They don’t have long to find the others. Still in disbelief, Ant-Man voices that this is crazy. What the hell is happening? To this, Fury explains that they have work to do. The same work he’s been doing for all these…
Interrupting, the Black Panther tells Fury that he has a question. What happened to the Watcher? When Fury doesn’t immediately answer, the Panther says Fury’s name inquisitively. He died, Fury replies, casting his eye downward. And now… Now he supposes it’s his turn.