(north shore of the maximum security prison the Raft )
Luke Cage lies on the ground, foaming at the mouth. Baron Zemo tells the Thunderbolts that the team was his and will always he his. The idea that his people could ever follow someone else is ludicrous; there will only ever be one leader of the team. Mach V and Songbird both collapse on the floor, also foaming from the mouth. Baron Zemo stands on a rock above the team. He tells them they can thank him with undying loyalty. He tells them to board the craft before the Raft’s defenses kick in.
Crossbones immediately accepts the offer and asks where they are going. Juggernaut says he’s happy to get off the rock but he ain’t going with Zemo. He pushes Zemo out of the way and dives into the ocean. The Juggernaut answers to no one. Zemo angrily orders Moonstone to incinerate Juggernaut. She becomes airborne but grabs Zemo by the collar instead. She asks why she should take orders from him. His memory isn’t what it used to be. He twists around and blasts her full in the face with an energy blast. He asks her if she didn’t think he’d be prepared for her.
He turns to Ghost and asks what he intends to do. Will he embrace freedom or make the same mistake as the others? On the aircraft, Crossbones yells down for Zemo to go. Ghost says he remains unconvinced by the scenario. Zemo fires an energy blast at him but Ghost goes intangible and it misses him. Moonstone flies towards them as tries to go intangible too but Zemo hits her with another blast. Crossbones asks what’s wrong with them… this is a breakout. Ghost tells him it’s not… it’s a test.
Ghost stares at the bodies of the handlers and sees that they are perfectly fine. With his equipment, he can tell they have heartbeats and Songbird’s spiked whenever Moonstone was hit. He tells the team that he assumes they took chemical capsules. Cage sits up and wipes the foam from his mouth and tells them the dry run is over.
Standing on the cliffs, Songbird says they lost Juggernaut. The two look into the ocean but Cage says they didn’t. He says that Marko now needs air just like the scans predicted and now he’s having a hard time keeping his bulk above the water. He tells Mach V to retrieve him before the jellyfish get him. Mach V heads out to Juggernaut as a swarm of jellyfish make their way across the water towards him.
Crossbones angrily pulls out his gun and realizes it was all a trick. Baron Zemo walks towards him and waves his hand which causes him to forcibly lower his gun. Zemo says they wanted to test out some capabilities. Moonstone assumes they wanted to see who would bug out first. Zemo tells her no and then removes his mask to reveal he was Fixer all along. They didn’t expect loyalty… they just wanted to test out the nanite system. He explains they were given micro-bots when they were processed on the Raft. Any of the handlers can incapacitate any of the team at any time, regardless of the range. He adds that Moonstone also has additional nanites in her cortex to stop her from manipulating molecules without permission. She angrily tells him she needs those powers, to which Songbird tells her that flight, strength and laser beams should be enough for anyone.
Ghost is impressed and guesses that Juggernaut was given more nanites. Mach V flies in carrying Juggernaut. He says that he wasn’t given extra nanites… they just wanted to confirm what their scans showed. Juggernaut has lost a lot of his ability. It takes him a lot more space he needs to gain a full kinetic run. Plus he also needs air and he can’t regenerate or burn the nanites out. Ghost asks how they did it but Songbird replies that they didn’t. After Juggernaut’s possession by the enigma force, he seems to have ticked off the entity that gives him his powers.
Enraged by hearing this, Juggernaut picks himself up off the floor and starts to charge at Cage. Cage calmly says he needs to test out his tech and he pushes a button on his wristband. The massive Juggernaut collapses face first on the ground right at Cage’s feet. Ghost says the message is clear… they are under control. Cage agrees and says that Ghost’s suit is also wired, so they can shut it off. Moonstone says that, back in the original Thunderbolts, they at least pretended like they had rights.
Cage spins around to her and asks if she thinks she deserves any consideration. He wouldn’t have picked a single one of them… he thinks the council was out of their minds. But he wasn’t going into the field without a dry run and now he knows what they can and can’t do. He walks away and says their first mission is tomorrow and then orders them to get back to the Raft. Songbird turns to Fixer and tells him he does a really good Zemo.
Songbird and Mach V are walking through the men’s cell area. Mach V says he can’t believe Songbird is there. She tells him she turns the sound off so she doesn’t have to hear anything. She says she thought Luke would be there but he tells her Fixer took him to the infirmary to meet the new warden.
Fixer is escorting Cage through the infirmary wing. They walk past one of the rooms where a large ogre-like creature is about to be probed by a doctor. Fixer says not everyone in the Raft is a prisoner, some are brought there to receive medical treatment until they can stand trial. Cage asks why the warden is there. Fixer tells him he has to be checked over due to his injuries from the Asgard fight. Cage says he’s surprised he’s back so soon. As they continue walking the creature from the room they just passed throws up, spraying vomit out into the corridor. Fixer says lots of people had reservations about the warden but the feds wanted to show him support and thanks. Plus, he demanded to be back in service and this was what was available for someone in his condition.
They enter another room and Fixer introduces Cage to the new warden… John Walker aka U.S. Agent. Walker sits in a wheelchair and greets Cage. His left arm has been replaced with a crude prosthetic one and he has a number of small devices on him that a doctor is using to take some medical readings. Cage asks him how he’s holding up, to which Walker replies that he’s alive and that’s a gift and he’s not going to waste that life with regrets. He changes the subject to the Thunderbolts and comments that Cage is taking them on their first mission tomorrow. Cage confirms it and says he wanted to get the hang of things before they go into a real hostage situation. Cage’s phone starts ringing and he excuses himself as it’s his wife Jessica.
As Cage takes the call Fixer reminds Walker that he can fit him with advanced prosthetics. Walker cuts him off and says he’s not being some cyborg like the slime that made him that way. They look across the infirmary to a stasis chamber containing the unconscious body of Nuke inside. The doctor looking after Nuke says that they have some radical stimulus therapy that might help out with his coma. But Walker tells him no and to save his efforts for cases with more chance of reform. As Walker leaves, Fixer asks the doctor what he thought he’d say.
Afterwards in Thunderbolts Tower, the team is meeting there for the first time. Cage tells them that they now know what they’re working with and they know not to ditch. He adds that Crossbones will not have any lethal ammo in his magazines. Crossbones looks at one of the magazine clips and sneers at the concussion tips. He also gets a tranquilizer gun and wireless tasers. Moonstone whispers that he’s been de-clawed. Initiating the large computer consol behind him, he tells them that their first mission is light work to make sure they can work together or they’re out.
He explains that, when Asgard was recently destroyed, a lot of rubble was dropped over Broxton, Oklahoma. In the city was a holding cell for some of the Asgardian enemies known as trolls. Most were killed in the destruction but there are reports of three trolls tearing up everything in their path. Juggernaut scoffs at the fact they are going after trolls. Cage tells him that they may not seem much but they’ve killed people and they need to be brought in alive. Cain puts on a fake smile and says he will stomp their “hobbits” and then asks where the transport is. Cage smiles back and tells them it’s time for them to meet it.
The team enters Man-Thing’s habitat and wade through the swamp. They are confused as to why they are there and are shocked when they see Man-Thing emerge from the murky water. Songbird tells them he has a natural connection with a convergence of space and time. Hank Pym has made them an implant so they can “steer” him to any point in the world. Just don’t touch it. As the team stares at Man-Thing Moonstone comments that the program is even weirder than it used to be. As Cage messes with the device on his wrist, he tells everyone to hold their positions as he’s still getting the hang of it.
Eventually, the world around them starts to glow red and blur and they are transported to their location. They arrive in a grassy meadow with trees around them. Ghost seems impressed that it was much smoother than the teleporter in the Vault. Cage says that, based on sightings, this is the most likely area for the trolls to be. Just as he says that, two giant trolls jump out of the trees and crash into the team. As the trolls run off, Cage commends the software and orders Songbird to stay with Man-Thing to keep him out of trouble.
The rest of the team picks themselves off the ground prepare for a fight. Moonstone and Juggernaut give chase, while Crossbones and Ghost hang back. Crossbones is jealous the other two are going to get the trolls before he can but Ghost informs him another troll is nearby. Juggernaut rips through the trees after the trolls but is told off by Cage for tearing through the forest. As Juggernaut continues his rampage, he is suddenly struck by a tree that was pulled back and released by one of the trolls. As Juggernaut is catapulted away, Cage lunges at the troll. He knocks it down but the other troll attacks and jumps on him. The trolls manage to get away again as Cage staggers to his feet.
He radios Songbird to let her know they are headed to her. She spots them and creates a wall of sound to corral them. However, they jump at the solid pink wall with such force they knock Songbird back. As they run away yet again, Songbird tells Cage they are stronger than they look, and they don’t look weak. She turns to Man-Thing, who had just stood still watching the whole scene unfold. She sarcastically thanks him for the help but he just stares vacantly at her.
Moonstone is flying over the forest and she spots the running trolls. She swoops down and blasts one of the trees in half. She then picks up the top and slams it into the trolls, sending them crashing to the ground.
Elsewhere, Crossbones and Ghost are hunting a third troll. Ghost spots it in the distance and Crossbones opens fire on it. He sprays it with bullets but it doesn’t fall. Instead, it grabs an axe and swipes a nearby tree, causing it to collapse on Crossbones. He just manages to dive out the way before it hits him.
Moonstone yells for Cage and he arrives to see Moonstone is using the tree to pin the two trolls to the ground with. Before he can do anything, he hears a loud rumbling and turns to see Juggernaut charging at them. He yells for him to stop but he is ignored and Juggernaut collides with the tree, destroying it and sending Cage, Moonstone and the trolls flying.
Ghost radios through to find out what the sound was, but he is suddenly ambushed by the third troll, who looks much smaller and more humanoid than the other two. The troll swings its axe and hits Ghost. His arm is wounded and sparks come off his damaged suit. He stares in shock at his arm, as he was intangible yet the axe still hit him. He wonders what could compromise his suit and he looks out to see the half eaten corpses of two men in the distance. He looks up to see the troll is in fact a young girl wearing the skin of a dead troll as clothing. She brings her axe up ready to slam it down on him.