Crossbones is strapped into a straight jacket and being kept in a padded room after the previous mission. Mach IV, Songbird and a doctor monitor him via a camera. As they watch, Crossbones tries to attack the force field door, the doctor says that he doesn’t seem to be able to use his new power anymore. The exposure to the waters of the other dimension seems to have burned him out. Mach IV points out that it’s only as far as the doctor can tell and she didn’t exactly detect his powers in the first place. The doctor tells the two wardens that she thinks the Terrigen mists influenced Crossbones but Songbird interrupts her and says that he was already a killer and he isn’t going out with the Thunderbolts anymore.
A voice gets their attention and says it’s not like the team has been out in weeks and then asks when Cage will be back. They turn to see Moonstone floating behind them, dressed in her Thunderbolts costume. When Songbird says Luke is with the Avengers, Moonstone questions it. Mach IV says that after the mission under Manhattan and the recent escape attempt, the agency that oversees the Thunderbolts has decided to ground them indefinitely. Songbird adds that Moonstone is lucky enough to be able to train in the facility. Juggernaut is allowed free to build breakers around the island as letting him out of his cell makes him easier to deal with. Songbird and Mach IV walk away and Moonstone yells that she is going daft in there. Mach IV jokes that she still has Ghost to keep her company.
Moonstone turns and looks up at Ghost, who is floating high above her in the training room. She glides up to him and asks if he finds puzzles, like the crossword he is doing, trivial. He tells her there is no mental exercise to be had and so he has been doing the daily crossword for several weeks now. He is certain it is being used to communicate messages to a secret group in New York. She asks why he sees plots and conspiracies everywhere, to which he simply replies “because there are.” Moonstone tells him she would love to hear how he became enlightened to the true nature of the world and, since they aren’t going anywhere, he may as well share.
Ghost ignores her and continues with his crossword but she persists, placing a hand on his helmet. She knows privacy is important to him but she used to be a psychiatrist and it’s only fair she has some insight into him, considering they depend on each other in battle. She gives him her word that, whatever he tells her, stays with her. It will be a secret, something just between him and her. He tells her it is dangerous data to share, as it would create pathways and bonds. She replies that’s what she wants. He relents and tells her he will block the audio in the tower for two meters around them so she needs to stay close. He will tell her of his past.
The truth goes back a number of years. Before he was Ghost, he was a very ordinary man. He was making quite a splash in the information technology field and he was well regarded by his colleagues at the most dynamic IT firm, Omnisapient. His work in his field had been noticed early on and he was headhunted to take a position in research and development. Most people in business either work in programming or engineering. Excelling at both, his role was very necessary and the board at Omnisapient was very hands-on and visited him often. Two of the board were the Kolman brothers, Charles and Neil. Charles was the financial face of the company whilst Neil was the technical one with whom the programmers identified. The third, Dana, excelled at mergers and deals, growing the company in record time.
The young Ghost, back then a slightly overweight man, was often well compensated by the three directors for his work. One day they came with a gift of stadium tickets, as they wanted him to head up the next big project. Neil began to tell the young man all about the next stage of their business plan and his zeal was infectious. The idealistic young man liked the trust that was being placed in him as well as the opportunity to chart a new path of information technology.
He dove into the new project and found it exhilarating to have the trust of the board as well as head multiple crews. He would often stay so late into the night he would use the executive showers at the company instead of going home. The project itself was a processor that could alter its physical state, enabling it to store massive amounts of data. There were distractions to the project during the day, but he didn’t mind. One day, a young woman named Shana came and asked him to help her with her computer but one of the directors saw and threaten her job if she wasted any more of his time. He was disappointed but he knew his work was a priority and it soon became clear the company was hinging everything on his project.
His next step naturally made the board uneasy, though. When they learned he intended on scrapping two months’ worth of work, they were furious at the lost time and money they put into the project. He told them, though, that it wasn’t wasted, as he knew the system would work, he just needed a different approach. It was Neil Kolman who defended him and reminded his brother that they hired him for this exact reason. To be innovative and not waste time on something that won’t work. He convinced everyone that Ghost was a problem solver and he would get the project done on schedule, to which Ghost reluctantly agreed. He managed to get the back on schedule by not going home again.
Soon Charles was asking him to roll it out six-weeks earlier than planned, even though it hadn’t been tested in all systems. He annoyed Charles even more by taking a week’s vacation to refresh his mind. He didn’t think the days off would affect the project at all or that he would even be missed. But out of the blue Shana phoned him up and they went out. Suddenly he had a new connection to the company and the energy to go again returned.
To make up for lost time, he beta-tested the project using the companies own networks. His bosses were thrilled as the resulting anticipation drove up stock prices too. Omnisapient expanded rapidly before the project had even been released. But Ghost didn’t care as he was aware of very little that went on outside his workspace. As the time for release grew closer, the board seemed calmer and much more accommodating. They let him and Shana use their personal beach houses and boats so he could relax and enjoy himself. His life was becoming a smooth-running machine and when the project went public the reaction was enormous. The company dominated the market and the board was on the front-line for the countless articles describing their vision.
It should have been a glorious period for their technological wizard but it was a new period none-the-less. Shana was killed when her home burned down, devastating the young man. The directors gave him as much time off as he needed but he felt now he had done his job he wasn’t needed anymore. Dwelling on Shana’s death, he decided to throw himself back into his work and into the binary world.
He embraced the technological world more and more and rarely left it. Soon he had himself fitted with devices that would physically connect him to the systems so he could be in a haven of rationality. He hid his work from his colleagues in case they thought he was abnormal. At night time, he would just become another station in the system as he plugged himself in and entered the digital world. With the orderly structure, he could access data and solve problems and he didn’t have to accept undesired outcomes. His subconscious could solve everything his waking mind couldn’t… or wouldn’t.
After hundreds of hours of processing, a possibility presented itself. Something happened and his mind became joined with the digital world and the properties he inhabited in it manifested in his physical form. He was able to swim through the data stream to various contact points. A receipt here and a funneled account there. Numerous emails that used coded talk and, in some cases, a video.
It all showed that Shana was being coerced by the Omnisapient directors into befriending Ghost so that he would be more proactive at work. She would be compensated for her talents but soon she became greedy and asked for large sums of money to keep quiet. The directors sought out a hired killer who knew that if he used natural gases no one would suspect a thing. The resulting explosion killed Shana and gave the directors some ease of mind.
With this new information, Ghost had the motivation to leave the office but he didn’t know where he should go. However, he saw the contact killer outside his flat and he knew the directors had figured out he was on to them. The only one of them who could have detected the intrusion into the protected files would have been Neil. Another gas explosion would have looked suspicious, so they destroyed Ghost’s entire apartment block, killing numerous tenants.
A while later, Dana is showing and she hears a voice come from somewhere and tell her it’s for the good of the company. She calls out and looks around for the person who spoke but she can’t find anyone. She goes back into the bathroom to see writing on the mirror that reads “I see you.” The voice speaks out again and asks her if she felt the gas explosion was uninspired. She says that her jewelry is in the dresser but the voice ignores her and tells her that creativity was never her strongest suit. That’s what she had employees for. She realizes who is speaking but, before she can say anything else, the voice tells her that her condominium didn’t have gas so they have had to be less clever. She enters her bedroom to see a canister with a digital display counting down. It hits zero, beeps a few times and the whole floor explodes in a ball of flames.
Elsewhere, Charles is flying in a small luxury airplane. He assumes that Dana was killed by the hired killer, who is now sending them a message. He is speaking to Neil over a phone and he says that the killer must want more money. The line goes dead and another voice speaks out to Charles. He says that more money is the only motivation his kind can fathom. Of course that’s what Shana wanted so perhaps he shouldn’t judge. He goes to the bathroom and realizes that someone is in there. Taking out a gun, he opens the door to see the body of the hired killer hanging from the ceiling. The voice speaks out again and thanks Charles for giving him Shana for a time, even if it was a lie. Charles shouts and asks where they are and the voice tells him he’s in the cockpit. Unlike the hit man in the bathroom, he won’t bother trying to make this look like an accident. Why would he? You can’t arrest someone who’s already dead.
Charles opens the door to the cockpit to see a figure cloaked in white, who appears to be semi-transparent. Charles looks through the cockpit window to see them heading straight for a mountain side and he screams for the man to pull up.
On a luxury yacht, Neil says he isn’t coming back to the company now that Dana and Charles are dead. He tells the woman on the other end of the phone he has to go as the fog is coming in and needs to keep an eye on the sonar. The ghostly figure appears behind him and says that a sea escape is an inspired choice and he would only expect it from him. Neil realizes that it is his former employee and he asks how he lived through the explosion. The man replies that he didn’t. The gas main that the hit man rigged exploded and the star programmer was hit with a wall of seven hundred degree heat. No one could have survived that. Yet, if one were wired from head to toe with Omnisapient flux-state processors, the heat might make him go intangible when they were triggered. Kind of like the ghost-tech he was developing.
Neil says that it takes going to extremes to change the world. He’s the only one left now and if the man drops this thing against him then he can make him crazy rich. Or he can give him the resources to pursue anything he wants. Between the two of them, they can hide it all and make a new start. The Ghost fades away again until only a voice can be heard. He says that it’s true that subterfuge would be easy, much like how the sonar has been showing a clear path ahead. Neil calls out the man’s name but the voice yells to stop calling him by that name. That man died in flames and his life is gone. All there is now is a ghost. The Ghost floats away from the yacht as a huge tanker slams into it, causing a large explosion.
Ghost says that he returned to the mainland and returned to his work; there wasn’t a lab that could keep him out. He erased any trace of the life he used to lead. No name and no identification, no government or business has any record of him either. Corporate hierarchy will always push to the top those that want to exploit those with true creative force. So in this afterlife he will haunt them to oblivion. The schemers, the power-players and the manipulators… he will come for them all eventually.
Ghost congratulates Moonstone as she knows more about him than anyone else alive. He asks if she believes that means Ghost has regrown his ability to trust or whether he doesn’t see her as a threat. Before she can give an answer, he phases through her and says that it doesn’t matter to one who is truly untouchable. Mach IV walks in and tells the shocked Moonstone she’s going back in the field again as Cage as a mission for her.
As Songbird and Luke Cage walk down a corridor, she asks if they should start him out on a more predictable mission first. He says there’s no such thing and what they have to do needs a ridiculous amount of power. Even Juggernaut and Moonstone won’t be enough so they are tapping into their talent pool. The new Thunderbolt is going to be Hyperion.