(Swiss Fort Knox, just outside Gstaad, Switzerland, one hour ago)
It’s a cold evening and all is quiet. Outside the fort, a soldier sits slumped against the wall, either dead or unconscious. Inside, more bodies line the corridors leading to a room filled with computers. There, a frightened employee cowers before a man dressed as the Captain. He begs him not to do this. He has a daughter. Can’t he just tell him what he wants? the Captain replies, “What do I want? All of it!!”
(East Williamsburg, Brooklyn, one hour later)
There is a knock on the door. A guy named Franklin answers and is surprised to find Mister Negative there with his masked companion. Mister Negative hopes this isn’t a bad time but Franklin replies no, not at all. He guesses they are there for the gauntlets. “Are they ready?” asks Mister Negative. Franklin reveals them, a pair of metallic-colored Fistigons. He explains that he had to pull double time to get them on the schedule he needed, but he got ‘em. Mister Negative thanks him. It’s most impressive. Good weapons specialists are tough to find these days. He blames the economy.
Franklin says he knows how much he loves this stuff. As Mister Negative’s colleague puts the Fistigons on, he explains that he had to steal the design from some kid in L.A. Mister Negative finds them to be magnificent as always. Just perfect. However, he thinks Franklin works too hard sometimes. He should get more rest. Franklin assures him that he’s doing all right. Mister Negative says sure but, still, it’s an occupational hazzard for those who enjoy what they do so passionately. You have to know when to relax, just lay back, watch some television.
Franklin thinks television’s crap. It rots your brain. He looks at the flat screen nearby and says he told them to get it out of there. Mister Negative finds that to be a very narrow point of view. There are many interesting programs out there these days. He uses the remote to switch on the television and tells Franklin to check it out. A live news program comes on hosted by a female journalist. The story turns out to be very important.
“Government officials are scrambling tonight in the wake of a massive leak of classified documents outlining a sure-to-be-controversial information network, with contacts in virtually all of the world’s most powerful criminal and terrorist organizations.” She adds that the documents include the un-redacted names of confidential sources who cooperated with various law enforcement and counter-terrorism agencies.
Franklin suddenly becomes frightened. He apologizes to Mister Negative. He wants to explain, but he replies that there’s no need. He’s a fast reader. It was a smart move, selling information about his clients in exchange for immunity. Anyone in the position he was in would have done the same. It’s understandable. After all, he adds, Franklin is a very smart man. He should listen to him more often. Without another word, he uses a long scalpel to stab Franklin in the top of his skull. He falls to the floor, dead. Mister Negative walks away, quipping that maybe television really is bad for you.
On board the Secret Avengers Quincarrier, Steve Rogers is briefing everyone present on the situation. Gathered around are Valkyrie, Beast, Sharon Carter, Moon Knight, Ant-Man and War Machine. He informs them that, from what they know, the information was taken by force from a high-security data storage facility in Switzerland just three hours ago. They’re still working on identifying the attackers. This information was uploaded to an FTP server and e-mail links were anonymously sent to the media a few minutes later. From there, it’s gone global. The dossiers have been handed out and they each have one.
Everyone sits in silence as Steve continues to say that they are potentially looking at the greatest security compromise in history. A complete list of anyone that’s ever provided them with any kind of tip, ever. Named names. Beast reads the dossier and says that he fought against some of these men. The one he’s looking at publicly called for the assassination of any mutant sympathizers the day they buried Moira McTaggert. He can’t believe they’ve been making deals with these people? Steve says that everyone on the list provided them with information that saved lives. Some did it for the right reason. Some did it to evade imprisonment. Some just did it for profit. Pretty soon, he’s sure the entire world will be having a conversation about this program’s moral legitimacy and effectiveness. He reckons that’s good. When that, time comes, he will answer for it.
In the meantime, however, what they have are four hundred and nineteen high-level government informants exposed and out in the open. Most of them are behind enemy lines. The best estimate they have, he continues, says they have less than thirty minutes to get them before this information if fully disseminated... and the mass executions start. Steve reminds them that their team was formed to deal with secret dangers before they have a chance to become a world-level threats. The names on the list are people who actually provide them with this information. As of now, this is their mission. They are protecting their own secrets.
Hank says that, despite his other reservations, this sounds impossible. Ant-Man makes a feeble joke but War Machine ignores it and tells Steve that he agrees with Hank. There’s no way they can extract this many assets in that time frame. Steve knows this and replies that they’re not going to. They’re going to extract one.
An image appears on screen of a man named Benjamin Abrams. Steve informs them that he is an A.I.M. genetics researcher who has been on their payroll for the last ten years. Six months ago he sent them, via covert transfer, a flash drive with his name all over it. The documents held on that drive helped them prevent a major biological attack in Boston. This led to the shutdown of an entire branch of their operation. It’s the only contact they’ve had with him but it saved thousands of lives that day. His investigations show that the man gave this information as an act of conscience rather than greed or malice. He points to a board showing a map of the Washington D.C. area and explains that he recently transferred and now works in a quasi-independent offshoot of A.I.M. day-to-day. This may buy them a few more minutes in the confusion. Geographically speaking, he adds, they know he’s in Arlington so they can get to him quickly. And… he has a family.
Sharon Carter doesn’t like the situation but listens patiently as Steve says that splitting their resources would spread them too thin to be effective. They don’t have enough time to call in reinforcements. A lot of women are going to die tonight; at least a few of them quiet heroes. He wants to go to sleep knowing they did all they could to help them, even if it means they only get to save one of them. Hank asks if they have his exact location. Steve replies that the Black Widow is on it as they speak.
(Foggy Bottom, Washington D.C.)
Natasha is in a quiet diner where only one man is eating. She edges past him and asks if he’s going to offer to buy her a drink. He grunts that it’s such a boring cliché. If a woman doesn’t want to be alone, she should tell a man what she wants. None of this cat and mouse nonsense. They both know what this really is. Natasha pretends to blush and tells him he is direct. She confesses to be a bit surprised. The man replies that he’s a busy man. He has no time for such pleasantries, especially when an opportunity for pleasure is so near. Does she understand?
Natasha replies of course she does. She isn’t one for tired trite pleasantries either. She’s electing to forgo the little game she was about to play with him. He asks what game that would be. Natasha replies that it’s the one in which she pretends to let him seduce her and take her back to his hotel room where they would embrace passionately for a moment. But then, just as she is about to undress, she pulls her gun on him instead.
Natasha does indeed pull out a pistol and aims it at the guy’s head. “We should all be past such boring clichés now, yes?” she asks. “No, please,” he replies. Natasha tells him that he’s been an independent contractor for A.I.M. for the last fifteen years. There is a man working in his department. She needs to know his whereabouts and he needs to keep his skull intact. There is room for agreement here. The man tells her she wouldn’t. There are bartenders… witnesses! Natasha tells him that isn’t a concern. The United States government tips very well.
War Machine and Ant-Man make their way to the coordinates that the Black Widow supplied them, with Ant-Man unable to keep his mouth shut all the way about Natasha. He hopes she might discover a newfound respect for him once they break into the honeycomb hideout (so named for the A.I.M. headgear). War Machine reckons they won't have a hard enough time down there for him to impress anyone. Valkyrie’s already on the ground.
Below, Valkyrie faces off against several agents. Using her mighty sword, she slices and dices her way through her opponents with ease. Ant-Man asks War Machine if he means they will be dead already. “Pretty much, yeah,” replies James.
Once they land, Ant-Man grows to full size and War Machine calls in to control that they have a visual on the asset. Ant-Man is disappointed that he isn’t wearing a funny helmet. Abrams is tied to a chair and gagged. He sees the two Avengers and tries to speak but it comes out as a mumble. Ant-Man takes it off and Abrams calls them idiots. Ant-Man is surprised, but Abrams informs them that they’ve come to the wrong place. It’s not him they want. It’s his damn wife! They untie him and he explains that it’s a spouse identity decoy program - a security measure. He turns up for eight hours and does nothing. That’s his job. He’s the cover. His wife is the one that works for them, out of their home. James asks why they would set up something like that. Abrams asks if he’s kidding. He should look at what just happened. He says they need to hurry. They know now and they’re going to kill her.
Ant-Man asks Steve if he got that through their link. Steve replies yes, and that they’re on their way right now. Abrams puts his head in his hands. He told her not to send them that information. She said it was the right thing to do. She said that they would protect them if anything happened. He should have stopped her… “I should have stopped her,” he cries.
At Abrams’ home, Moon Knight crashes through the window and quickly takes out two armed A.I.M. agents. Steve radios him and asks for a sit-rep. Moon Knight says he’s sorry, but he was too late. Steve Rogers closes his eyes and then lashes out, smashing the computer next to him. Sharon and Hank share his sorrow in silence.
A man wearing a version of Captain America’s old “Captain” uniform films a message for the internet. He says that the first thing people should know is that he loves his country. He has dedicated his life to serving it and he doesn’t regret that for a second… even now, knowing what he knows. Around the world, the assassinations begin. Informants are stabbed, hung, shot.
The man explains to the camera that he fought in Afghanistan and watched a lot of his brothers die. Some of their men turned out to be Skrulls during the invasion. He guesses a thing like that makes you think a lot about who you should trust. Then, when he got home, all he saw was a bunch of people fighting over who gets to be in charge of keeping them ‘safe.’ None of them were doing a very good job of it. Just ask Broxton. He explains that he doesn’t give a damn of those people call themselves good guys or bad guys. The way he reads it, they all do the same things, and they just keep doing more and more of it without wanting anyone to be held accountable to anyone.
He concludes by saying he thinks it’s time the rest of them had their say, too. So, this message is to all of those who appoint themselves their protectors who break the public trust; when they put themselves above the law and above what is just. “We’ll be there. We have a right to know what you do in our name.”
Once he’s finished his rhetoric, his assistant Ronnie tells him that was real good. He thanks Ronnie and asks him to upload it and send a link to The Guardian, The Times, The Bugle… he knows the list. “After that, I want you to…” He doesn’t finish his sentence. An explosion blows them off their feet and Steve Rogers appears at the door, arms folded. He says he can tell the guy this much. If he’s trying to persuade him to make him the next USAgent, then he’s going about it all wrong. The guy stands up and brushes the dirt off his uniform. He tells Steve that it’s funny, but his memory is a little longer than his.
Does Steve remember when he wore this uniform? he asks. The government cronies told him to do Captain America their way or walk. He walked, and became The Captain instead. He was taking a stand against corruption back then. Now look at him. They got what they wanted in the end, didn’t they. All they had to do was give Steve a little power after all those years of ‘holier than thou.’ Then they put him in charge and there they are. He points his finger at Steve and informs him that their government is in bed with a bunch of terrorists, murderers and despots. Most of them are selling each other out to get ahead. Secret Avengers teams that don’t answer to anyone but him… “You sold us out! he cries. They deserve to know what’s going on.
Steve finally runs out of patience and punches him in the face. The guy hits back but Steve blocks him and smashes him in the face again. He then uses his elbow to wind him and his knee to break his teeth. “Now,” he asks. “Are you ready to listen,” he asks, “Or do I have to hit you a few more times?”
Steve stands over the guy and informs him that he’s not the first person to come at him carrying a flag. He certainly isn’t the first to call him a traitor. He’s gone up against plenty who believed what they were doing was right - that they were the hero and he was the villain. Sometimes he’s wondered if they were right. The job he has now, he adds, he fell into, really. There’s shades of grey to all of it. What he said might even be true. In a different time, he might be the one fighting to end something like this. But, if he ever starts to really question himself, and whether or not he’s fit to do this, he remembers that he and the people he stands with, good and bad, no matter what they believed they were, they would never let people die to prove their damn point. He doesn’t know if that’s enough for him, or for the rest of the world but, for the time being, it’ll have to do.
He turns and walks back towards the Quincarrier where his team awaits him, leaving the terrorist to face the consequences of his actions.