Luke Cage and Jessica Jones are walking, arm in arm, towards Luke’s apartment, having been to collect groceries. They are having a humorous discussion about Iron Fist’s costume. As they arrive home, some local kids engage him in conversation, asking if his skin is really unbreakable. “How do you sweat?” enquires another. Luke ignores the silly questions but asks if anyone has heard something about a red convertible dealing on the playground at PS 44. They haven’t, and insist they themselves are clean. Luke, towering above them, suggests that instead of bouncing a ball against each other’s heads all night, why don’t they proactively involve themselves in the community. He wants a name. This guys dealing to kids and they don’t like that. Why? He asks. One of the kids replies that it’s ‘cause kids is the future. Luke leans towards him and corrects him. “’Cause I said so, yo.” He’s heading inside to eat dinner with his lady, and when comes out, he wants a name.
As they enter the apartment, Jessica reminds him that they’re just kids, but Luke points out that in two more years they’ll be more than kids. It’s better to work ‘em now so he has their respect when they’re… The couple stop and stare at a shadowed female standing in the apartment, looking right back at them. Luke stands in front of Jessica and tells the stranger that stupid doesn’t even begin to describe what she just did, breaking into his pad. “I know where I am, Luke Cage,” she replies. Luke can only utter the word, Christmas, before the whole apartment explodes, taking a sizeable chunk of masonry with it. The kids below look up in shock.
(S.H.I.E.L D. Helicarrier)
Floating one thousand feet over Virginia, the massive helicarrier hovers effortlessly, surrounded by several fighter jets protecting this important and expensive ship. Seated around a large conference table, S.H.I.E.L.D. agents discuss the latest issues. Agent Sharon Carter informs her colleagues that they have recently shut down a website that had a formula for a gas that affected the nervous system, chemically heightening a human’s sense of terror. Early this morning, they received several cryptic reports out of Israel. Sabra shut down a terrorist cell that was planning a nerve gas attack in the Gaza Strip.
She continues to inform Nick Fury that, last night, the president of Afghanistan went on national television and declared the astral plane an Afghan territory. “The astral plane?” questions another. “Why not declare La La land a territory,” they add, rhetorically. Carter adds that,either way, the U.S. Secretary of Defense wants to meet with them about putting together an astral plane training seminar for agents.
Moving on, Carter mentions that a new book by Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward is been published next month, which says that the President has grave doubts about S.H.I.E.L.D.’s involvement in the Hydra situation in Baghdad last year. They check their notes and also mention that there was an explosion in Harlem last night. Luke Cage is in hospital, in a coma. He’s in a serious condition. His girlfriend, Jessica Jones, survived the attack, and local police are investigating.
Having sat through the previous news without moving, the Luke Cage story makes Fury prick up his ears. Carter adds that, as is S.H.I.E.L.D.’s policy, they will wait for their reports before deciding whether to carry out their own investigation. “Luke Cage is in a coma?” asks Fury. Carter nervously replies that he is. He was attacked in his home; some sort of explosion. They don’t have any details as of yet. Nick Fury’s attention wanders as he thinks about this piece of information.
Danny Rand, a.k.a. Iron Fist, sits beside his partner’s bed, reading the sports results in the faint hope that Luke can hear what he is saying. Colonel Fury arrives and enters the room, shaking Danny’s hand, who asks why he is here. Fury replies that he came as soon as he heard. Danny didn’t even know he knew Luke, and Fury replies that he knew him a little. He asks what’s with all the tubes. Danny informs him that the doctors can’t break his skin, so they had to find alternatives to keep him… Danny sighs, as he remembers just how serious his friend’s condition is. He tells Fury that Luke suffered severe trauma to his internal organs, but they can’t perform any kind of surgery. Isn’t this always the way, he adds. His greatest power is standing in the way of letting these doctors even figure out what’s wrong. He clenches his fist, frustrated at his own impotence. Jessica, sporting a long scar on her forehead, asks Fury if he knows who did this to him. Why is he here? Fury cannot reply, as a tear edges its way down her cheek.
(flashback, one year ago)
On television, two S.H.I.E.L.D. agents are watching a recording of a televised battle between Killer Shrike and the Avengers. It shows Iron Man using his repulsor rays to pummel Shrike into the ground. They taunt their detainee, Shrike himself, as they watch him stand and run from the golden Avenger. This is their favorite part. Shrike runs without looking in front of him, straight into the towering god of thunder, Thor. “That had ta hurt,” one laughs.
They are seated in a dark interrogation room facing Killer Shrike. The two agents, James Woo and Jasper Sitwell, are taunting him, asking what it feels like to see yourself on TV, dressed like that, getting your butt handed to you. Sitwell adds that even he was embarrassed for him and he doesn’t even like him. Shrike is in a bad way, his clothing torn and his face scratched with blood dried over his skin. He mutters that he thinks he gets a lawyer. Agent Woo stands. “Super-villain Killer Shrike wants a lawyer. Simon Maddicks, a.k.a. Killer Shrike, is caught red-handed by the mighty Avengers of New York City, and now thinks a lawyer is going to save his sorry, b-level uninspired super tuchas.”
Maddicks replies that he’s been arrested before; he knows his rights. Woo tells him that he knows he’s been arrested before. Between them, they inform him that they know about his surgically implanted anti-gravity generator in the base of his spine. They know about his extensive martial arts training and about his head to toe strength-enhancing body armor. Aaaand, they know about his weapons systems in the form of these custom-made, twin power blasters he wears on his wrist. An evidence bag is held before him with his weapons sealed inside.
Colonel Fury watches the interrogation through one-way glass. Sitwell and Woo perform a sarcastic double act, as the hapless Maddicks sits there feeling sorry for himself. They point out that each bracelet has two curved titanium talons, and these bracelets, being a custom make, can discharge a high-frequency bolt of electricity with a maximum charge of 35,000 volts. They then mention the fact that according to Maddicks’ bank statements, he has $6,345 in savings and $2,344 in checking. He has no other accounts, secret or other, open in his name, no safety deposit boxes and no money stashed under his mattress.
Maddicks begins to sweat. “Y-You Feds can’t just detain me. I-I have the right to…” Agent Sitwell interrupts him and says that the question he has is: How can he afford the maintenance on a surgically implanted anti-gravity generator imbedded in the base of his spine, head-to-toe body armor or the custom made twin blasters he wears on his wrist? Maddicks becomes increasingly nervous, as he slowly realizes where all this is heading.
Agent Woo points out that this must run into the tens of hundreds of thousands. Where does a guy like Maddicks get the bankroll to do this? Who is writing the checks? Maddicks stutters between each question, telling them that the Feds can’t do this, and he wants his lawyer. Woo smiles and says that he keeps calling them Federal agents. “Who said we were FBI?” adds Sitwell. Maddicks’ face drops. “You’re S.H.I.E.L.D. agents?”
They persist with their questioning, not allowing Maddicks time to breathe as the atmosphere suddenly becomes tenser. They want a name. They’ll even make it easy for him. They know that Phineas Mason, the Tinkerer, is comping him. They want to know why and where he is. They stand and Maddicks stretches his arms out, frightened and pleading with them to stay away. Woo ignores his plea and grabs his arm, twisting it around his back, forcing his face onto the table. He then drags him to his feet and shoves his face against a wall.
The agents inform him that he’s going away forever. He was stupid enough to get video-taped, and every court in the land will gleefully let him trot in Ryker’s. If they remove his generator and leave him without his armor or weapons, they don’t think he’ll last two minutes in Ryker’s. Woo asks if he knows who else is in Ryker’s? His old friend, Hammerhead. They have Maddicks shoved against the one way glass, right in front of the unseen Nick Fury. They also believe the Punisher just got pinched. Maddicks has had enough and can’t take this kind of pressure. He tells them that he’ll give them what they want. He wants a deal to stay outta Ryker’s.
It’s early evening, as Simon Maddicks approaches a doorway, monitored carefully by S.H.I.E.L.D. agents hidden away in a parked van, nearby. He presses a buzzer and a voice asks who it is. He says it’s Maddicks and the voice asks what he wants. Maddicks explains that he’s having trouble with his left wrist band. It’s got a short or something. The voice thought he got pinched, but Maddicks replies that he dodged it, though he struggles with his words, unreasonably nervous. Woo and Sitwell, listening in the van, know something’s wrong. The voice asks Maddicks if he’s alone and he pauses before replying that he is. The voice asks him to come on up. Maddicks reaches for the door handle and is instantly killed by a massive charge of electricity, which fries every cell in his body.
Woo and Sitwell grab their weapons and rush out of their van. By the time they reach Shrike, the place is crawling with undercover S.H.I.E.L.D. agents and hover cars which scour the area. Woo contacts the helicarrier, but it’s too late.
Underneath the building, Nick Fury and Sharon Carter wander through an underground tunnel system not found in the building plans. In the basement, they discovered four old passports with different names and some leftover packs of hundred dollar bills. Lined up against the wall are costumes belonging to a variety of costumed criminals, including Whirlwind and Taskmaster. A pair of the Vulture’s wings are spread across a table. The inhabitant is long gone and could be anywhere.
Fury’s phone rings and the Black Widow’s face appears on the screen. She has the Tinkerer in her sights. She is in Latveria, at the airport, and the aged Tinkerer is making his way through the terminal towards the exit. Fury asks her to follow him. “No, duh,” replies Natasha. Fury asks if he’s alone and Natasha explains that someone is picking him up, someone friendly, someone he knows. Unfortunately, she doesn’t know who it is. She uses her phone’s camera to take a snapshot, which she sends to Nick. The database should identify and tag him.
“Huh,” she says. Fury asks what it is. Natasha tells him that there are government plates on the car and quickly reaches her hand out, trying to flag down a cab. “Government plates?” Fury replies.
Fury has a meeting with the president of the United States and a few of his high-ranking officials. He explains that, for a couple of months, S.H.I.E.L.D. has been working on a project, codenamed CIRCUIT. They had a substantial break in the case this week. The president asks to be refreshed. Fury stands before a large screen with an image of Jack O’Lantern on it. He says that it started during one of their routine investigations. Their agents did a follow up on a character named Jack O’Lantern. He’s an idiot called Jason Macendale Jr., who was apprehended after he robbed a federal bank in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He robbed the bank wearing a self-designed Kevlar panel battle suit using anaesthetic, lachrymatory, regurgitant gas, smoke, and concussion custom-made grenades.
After an interrogation with the FBI, he was turned over to local S.H.I.E.L.D. agents for further questioning. It was during this questioning that one of their agents started crunching the numbers. Showing his array of weapons and armor on the screen, Fury informs the President that this Jack O’Lantern had robbed a bank, getting away with $11,345. The technology and hardware he used is worth well over three quarters of a million dollars. The difference between how much Macendale was making and how much his armor cost is staggering.
More faces appear on the screen of well known criminals. Fury continues to point out that they have been aware that many of these technological themed criminals were getting their materials from an underground figure known as the Tinkerer, in return for what we imagined was a piece of the action. For years, the Tinkerer eluded their agents. However, Macendale’s interrogation uncovered some more details. He admitted that someone was, in fact, backing the Tinkerer’s operation. A decision was made to actively renew their efforts in pursuit of the Tinkerer, because, if this is true, then these people are no longer criminals; they’re terrorists.
He continues his monologue. In their pursuit of the Tinkerer, they began interrogating any tech criminal that was brought into custody. The Tinkerer continued to elude their agents until this week, when the Black Widow identified the Tinkerer in Latveria, being escorted by Latverian intel to the castle of Lucia von Bardas, the elected prime minister of Latveria. Her face appears on screen alongside the Tinkerer’s and Dr. Doom’s.
The president says that it’s quite a hard pill to swallow. Fury acknowledges this, which is why he made this trip personally to brief him in person. The president points out that Lucia has bent over backwards to mend the ties between America and Latveria. They got her elected and the U.S. government, this year alone, has lent the country tens of millions of dollars in aid. $72m, adds one of his aides. Fury says it hurts to imagine what she’s done with that money, knowing what they know. The president thanks him, but Fury has a recommended response to submit. The president says that won’t be necessary. “I’m sorry?” asks Fury, taken aback.
He shows them a document he’s prepared and explains that they can only assume that this situation is going to escalate. The next phase will be organized… The president interrupts him. He appreciated Fury’s enthusiasm but they have this under control. Fury queries how that could be. The president replies that the Secretary of Defense has a pleasant relationship with Lucia. They’ll handle thing, diplomatically.
Fury is becoming frustrated with how this briefing has gone. He tells his audience that, personal relationships notwithstanding, they have evidence here that clearly identifies a threat to… Again, the president interrupts him, thanking him for his report. Fury thanks him, through gritted teeth and departs. Outside the White House, Valentina catches up with him, asking what happened. Fury turns and says it’s happening again. They have the information. They know who they are and they have irrefutable evidence in their hands as to who their enemy is, and they’re going to sit on it and do nothing. They are going to follow the rules of diplomacy and innocent people are going to die because of this right here. He can’t go through that again. It’s happening all over again. Valentina asks what he’s going to do.
Fury looks at the battered and bloody body of Luke Cage in his hospital bed, with Jessica holding him. Fury lowers his head. “What have I done?"