In Havok’s Memory:
Minutes ago, the Summers family was returning home from a vacation in Anchorage, Alaska. Now, Christopher Summers fights back tears as he straps his eldest son, Scott, into the only intact parachute. This does not go unnoticed by Scott’s younger brother, Alex. ‘You hold on to Alex as tight as you can, Scott, you hear me?’ Christopher says to his eldest son. ‘Okay, Dad… I will’ Scott replies. Their mother, Katherine wraps her arms around her sons as their plane plummets through the air, burning. ‘Be bold and fearless. Look to your hearts for strength to face the future’ she tells them. ‘When you can’t find it there, look to each other’ she adds, before asking them to promise they will take care of each other. ‘We will, Mom. I promise’ Scott replies, while Alex can only manage a whimper, his throat swollen in grief.
And for some things there are no words. Falling, held tightly in his brother’s arms, Alex catches one final glimpse of his mother’s beautiful face. Slowly waving goodbye through a window in the plane, but as if the boys were merely going to school. As if they would all be together soon. And then she was gone as the plane explodes. In a moment that Alex will relive for the rest of his life, a life spent desperately trying to prove himself and maintain some semblance of control. The parachute then catches on fire.
Now, Alex Summers a.k.a. Havok wakes in a world that has only ever shown him havoc. He lies in a ruined city. His concussion is severe. The undulating buzz in his ear drops off, revealing screams and explosions. His eyes open by sheer will. The image of his mother replaced by a similarly petrifying scenario - Wanda Maximoff a.k.a. the Scarlet Witch going up against the Mighty Thor. Her energies twirl around them, ‘Damn you, Thor! We’re running out of time! Every passing moment more innocents are harmed!’ Wanda tells him. ‘We will cleanse the world of your pustulous legion!’ the mind-controlled Thor replies. Wanda casts more energies towards her teammate and tells him to heed her warning, that she will stop the Red Skull by any means. ‘Yield now or I will cast a hex down your throat, shredding your insides in a torrent of pure chaos!’ Wanda threatens.
‘No. You will bleed in the gutters with your fellow vermin!’ Thor retorts as he fires a bolt of lightning from his hammer, Mjolnir. The Scarlet Witch informs Thor that all energy can be easily transmogrified, and that lightning is the simplest of all. ‘I withstand your worst!’ she announces, destroying the lightning bolt with ease. ‘Can your head withstand Mjolnir’s spite?’ Thor asks as he leaps towards Wanda, his hammer raised above his head, to which Wanda asks him ‘You rush headlong? You are truly out of your mind - and clearly do not remember whom you face!’ as she easily levitates a truck and slams it into Thor before he strikes her. Thor breaks through the truck when it comes to a crashing halt, and he approaches Wanda once again, ‘I remember well the foe I face! The monster who bends reality to her suiting! And I remember your black gifts require time and rest - of which you will have neither!’ he shouts as he flies directly towards her, hammer ready to strike once again, but, ‘Then it’s a good thing she’s not alone!’ Havok booms as he leaps into the battle, striking Thor at close range with his plasma energy.
Havok pulls Wanda to safety, while Thor stands up as the dust settles around him. Havok tells Wanda that she is looking really good out there, to which Wanda tells him that she is holding it together, but that she is tired. Havok informs her that the Red Skull is on the other side of Thor, and asks Wanda if she has enough hoodoo to get them past. Wanda tells him that with rest she could cast a large enough spell, but that she doesn’t think Thor is going to give them a time out.
The Red Skull patrols the chaos with Honest John and the Goat-Faced Girl at his side. Honest John calls out to the civilians, telling them to make no mistake, that the mutants are coming for them, that their homes are in danger. ‘The only hope we have to stop the monsters - we must unite against them!’ he declares. ‘The squalid Americans allow schweine such as this in their midst?’ the Red Skull asks, looking at a man. ‘Kill it’ he orders Honest John, who nervously asks ‘Sir, me? Why?’ The Red Skull looks unimpressed and turns to Honest John: ‘Are you questioning me?’ he asks. ‘No, Sir’ Honest John replies. ‘Good, now move a step to your right’ the Red Skull instructs him. Honest John does as commanded, and instantly, Captain America’s shield strikes Honest John and bounces off his head, preventing it from striking the Red Skull. Honest John collapses, and the Red Skull mutters ‘Now that time you should have asked why’.
The Red Skull tells Captain America that he has just missed his one chance at striking him. ‘I haven’t even begun, you son of a -’ Cap begins as he catches his shield. The Red Skull interrupts Cap, telling him that such vulgarity will not serve him well in the civilized world to come. Using his telepathic power, the Red Skull shows Captain America the new world: ‘Welcome to the Reich Eternal, Herr Rogers!’ he announces, as he stands before soldiers and tanks and Nazi flags. ‘Rejoice, broken spirit! I bring you a better world. A global Reich built on art and intellectual pursuit. Orderly, safe and clean!’ he declares, telling Captain America that he knows his plan, that he reels from the sad state of his nation. ‘As did I, once upon a time’ he admits.
The Red Skull tells Captain America that he cannot ignore the truth, that his melting pot has failed. ‘How it pains you to watch this capitalism, this greed, rot your homeland from within. You often ask yourself why you continue to dance for these entitled wretches who have strayed so far from what you embody’. Wide-eyed, Cap remarks that it has all changed, before he snaps back, and shouts ‘SHUT UP - you think anything you have to say could sway me? I love my country - I believe in America!’ he declares, swinging his shield, ready to strike - but instead, Captain America’s body goes limp, and he falls on his face. His cerebelum has been shut down by his hated enemy. ‘It’s like they say - the best way to sell a lie is to believe it yourself’ the Red Skull declares.
The Red Skull goes over and puts his foot against Cap’s head, telling him that he can see Captain America has completely embraced his fiction. ‘Somehow you still believe this nation has a bright future. Well, fortunately for you, dear Captain…I am here to ensure it’. The Red Skull shows Cap more visions of the future, explaining that he will become the figurehead of the movement, for when people see him hunting mutants in the streets, they will rally behind their noble hero. ‘We will direct their rage and frustration at this minority, giving a face to their pain. A face they can crush’ the Red Skull states, as Cap sees himself surrounded by hateful supporters.
The visions of the future continue, as Sentinels with the image of the Red Skull fly overhead, through a red-clouded sky, and standing in front of a brick wall, are Havok and the Scarlet Witch, as a spotlight shines down on them. On the brick wall is a large wanted poster, depicting several headshots of well-known mutants, most with “slain” stamped across them, some with “apprehended”. Only Havok, the Scarlet Witch and Magneto’s images are free. The Red Skull tells Captain America that they will elevate the common man to nobility by simply denying the mutants rights reserved for humans - voting, shared public utilities, marriage. Then, after they have grown away their army, frothing and impassioned, they will wipe the mutants out. ‘We will win the way for America, for humanity, and in return…they will beg us to rule them!’ the Red Skull claims.
At the same time, Havok and the Scarlet Witch both pour their power against Thor. Plasma swirls from Havok, while pink hex energies wash from the Scarlet Witch, who shouts ‘He’s almost through! Hold nothing back!’, to which Havok asks ‘You think I’m going easy on him?’ before telling Wanda that he doesn’t have anything left. Thor continues to resist, moving ever-closer to the mutant heroes. Wanda tells Alex to go, as the others will be expecting them, that he needs to go and help them, and do whatever he must to take the Re Skull down. ‘What?’ Havok asks, before telling Wanda that he is not leaving her alone to fight Thor. ‘Don’t worry… I won’t hurt him’ Wanda replies, smiling at Havok. Alex understands, and takes off, while suddenly, the air goes cold and electric around Wanda. Time slows down. The laws of order give way to the disruption of pre chaos. Her eyes roll back as she sinks into a trance, plummeting deeply into the cosmic well of chaos energy.
The Scarlet Witch spasms, tapping directly into the source of her hex power, she is transformed into a living conduit of pure disorder. Energy billows around her, in this overindulgence so dangerous it could easily unhinge her mind. It is her only hope. She knows there is no defeating Thor in direct conflict - there is only removing him from the battle, which she does, but releasing the pure disorder energy against Thor casting him into space.
At the same time, the Red Skull continues to show Captain America his proposed future. ‘Seeing your nation with fresh eyes, my dear Captain America, I assure you - you’ve lost your war. It just happened so slowly you grew accustomed to it’. He sees a man confronting some women, and men lined up in single file. Red Skull tells Captain America that if he looks to his heart, he will realize the truth, that he is no longer fighting to preserve this rancid nation, but fighting to change it back. ‘To add some semblance of sanity and incurably sick culture that breeds only parasites, greedy polluters and psychotic madmen’ the Red Skull adds. ‘A hopeless struggle you continue out of habit’. They witness a man holding up a fast food outlet, before the future changes - as the Red Skull declares that Captain America imagines that if he fights hard enough, one day he will west control from the bankers who own him and return this nation to its former glory.
‘Clean streets. Honest neighbors. Attractive wives. Green lawns’, and the image Cap sees is of himself coming from a normal day at work, to his wife, Sharon, and their two children. ‘How was work, Steve?’ Sharon asks. ‘I had a great day, Sharon’ Steve replies, as the sun shines down upon them and their home. ‘Mom, can we have meatloaf for dinner?’ their daughter asks.
The image changes, and the Red Skull stands on a jeep in front of a large chain store, ‘But in this reality this is, and will remain, your America. An uneducated population fixated on competition, material wealth and voyeurism’ Red Skull declares. People walk past seemingly in a mindless daze, so caught up in their own mundane lives. A man eats some food, unaware that a car drives past with someone holding a gun out the window. An overweight woman pushes her trolley out of the chain store, has son at her side, picking his nose. ‘Violent monsters doused in antibiotics to offset their diet of sugary sweet drink and mounds of carcinogenic cow flesh! THIS IS WHAT YOU FIGHT FOR!’ the Red Skull booms.
He grins at Captain America as reality returns to its present state, and tells Captain America that together, they will cleanse this nation, transform it to one more befitting both of their high ideals. ‘No…I’ll never…’ Cap utters. The Red Skull asks him if he is simply too arrogant to see when he is wrong. He pulls a plump woman towards Cap, holding her up by her neck, she stares at Cap with apathy, ‘Look at your future! Are these ignorant rednecks the goal of your American dream?’ the Red Skull asks. Suddenly, ‘Now, don’t you go dumping on rednecks, Nazi…we’re awful hazardous when riled’ Rogue announces as she stands over the fallen body of the Goat-Faced Girl. ‘What have you done -’ the Red Skull asks, as Rogue announces that she has taken the ugly girl’s powers and turned off the telepathy that the Red Skull has stolen from Charles Xavier. ‘But the real fun is still to come!’ Rogue declares, and leaps towards the Red Skull, boasting that she will crush his skull with her bare hands. ‘Stupid girl. I, of course, have other weapons’ the Red Skull announces as he pulls out a pistol and aims it at Rogue.
However, cosmic energy suddenly sears the Red Skull’s flesh and the shot goes wide, striking Rogue, but her injury is not fatal. Havok’s plans for the madman are, however, and the force of the plasma blast sends the Red Skull careening into a post. His energy exhausted, Havok is left with a more primal method of attack, and he punches Red Skull in the face. ‘You’re like the closeted jock who beats on gay kids! You don’t hate mutants - you’re terrified because you want to be just like us!’ Havok declares. But, with Rogue shot, her negation effect has dispersed, returning Xavier’s gifts to the Red Skull. Oblivious, Havok beats Rogue merciless, seeing in her the face of his foe. ‘Fight! Punch! Zap! Poor mutant fool - you have no hope of turning back this tide’ the Red Skull remarks as he watches Havok punch Rogue.
‘It’s like they say, the best way to sell a lie - is to believe it yourself!’ Captain America shouts as he attacks the Red Skull, slamming his shield into his hated foe’s face. He has struck this fiend before - but never so hard. He wastes no time - prepared to do whatever it takes to end this - he knows he cannot risk allowing this monster to regain his faculties - or allow him to live with Xavier’s great gifts. The Red Skull lands in a puddle, and from it, a hand reaches up. ‘You’ll spill no more blood, Skull!’ Cap calls out as he grabs the Red Skull, but the hand starts pulling the Red Skull down into the water. ‘Not today, perhaps…but soon’ the Red Skull replies as he is pulled down by Dancing Water. ‘I have acquired a taste for it’ the Red Skull announces. ‘No! NO!’ the Red Skull shouts as he leaps down to try and grab his foe, but he is too late.
He slams his fist into the remnants of the water, when suddenly, there is a thundering noise, as Thor lands several feet behind Cap. The silence is sudden and unbroken. The citizens of New York freed from the hate that encompassed their minds. Reeling from the horror around them. A stark reminder of what they had done. Thor goes over and picks up Wolverine’s battered body. Havok helps Rogue to her feet. Normal citizens awake to find themselves covered in the blood of their fellow man. The bodies of their victims strewn across the great city. The true toll of the atrocity would be untold for years. Blood spilt cannot be unspilt. Nor can the lives of the mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers slaughtered by the Red Skull be returned to their families. For some things, there are no words. No solutions. All that remains is to press forward, to do all that is in one’s power to ensure such tragedy not be allowed to repeat itself. To stand together against the black deeds of evil men…and to stand in unity.
The Scarlet Witch approaches Captain America, and the old friends embrace. Rogue and Havok help each other along, while Thor holds Wolverine’s unmoving body and wonders how he could have allowed the Red Skull’s words to have sway over him. Rogue tells Thor not to blame himself, while Wolverine opens one eye and mutters ‘Well…you can blame yourself a little’. The civilians all look around, ‘What have we done?’ one man asks. ‘Killed them…killed all these people’ a woman declares. ‘God help us all…we did this’ another man points out. But Havok turns to them: ‘No. Not you. The Red Skull killed these people. You were all helplessly under his control’ Havok assures them. His face severely bruised, Havok points out that even Thor and Captain America, the best among them, fell to the Red Skull’s influence. ‘This is not your burden. You have to remember that. None of this is your fault…but what happens next is’. as Havok, Rogue, Captain America, the Scarlet Witch, Thor and Wolverine take their leave, Havok tells the civilians to look to their hearts for strength to face the future, and when they can’t find it there, to look to each other.
Later, at Avengers Mansion, Captain America and Havok are in a communications room, images of the S-Men depicted on monitors, Cap tells Havok that they scoured the city for them, but by the time they recovered, the S-Men were gone. ‘We need to get our hands on one of them. These people are the key to the Skull’s location’ Havok tells Cap, who agrees. ‘Grade-A bad times, Steve. You know, given who we’re up against here, if you want to take the chair on this, I wouldn’t be offended’ Alex tells his teammate, but Cap tells him no, as the Avengers Unity Squad is in excellent hands with Alex in charge. ‘I’m always right about one thing - when someone has what it takes’ Cap adds. ‘Heh - well, to be fair, I don’t think you can self-apply “always right”, Cap, but thank you… I’ll try not to let you down’ Alex tells him.
In the infirmary, the Scarlet Witch enters the room where Rogue is recovering, ‘Anna Marie, I only need a minute’ Wanda calls out, addressing Rogue by her given name. ‘Timer’s started’ Rogue mutters. Wanda tells Rogue that she understands her trepidation, and Rogue to believe her when she says she will never again be wielded as a madman’s weapon. ‘Even with the power of Charles Xavier, the Red Skull couldn’t make me cast that spell’ Wanda points out. Wanda extends her hand and tells Rogue that if she decides to stay on, she would like them to start over, that she wants them to be friends. Rogue turns onto her side, facing away from Wanda and replies ‘I’m sorry, Wanda. I don’t care what you say - I think you’re a dangerous mess. I’m sticking around. For two reasons: because it’s what Charles would want…and to make sure you don’t hurt anyone else’.
In a darkened room, Wolverine sits in an armchair, a dim lamp at his side, several empty bottles of alcohol on a table, and one half-full bottle in his hand. ‘I can smell your shampoo, Goldilocks’ Wolverine calls out. Thor is standing behind Wolverine, who asks him not to fret, as he is on the mend and doesn’t blame him. ‘It is your other pain I came to address, Logan’ Thor tells his teammate, as he holds out a copy of the “Daily Bugle” in front of Wolverine. A photo shows the Scarlet Witch, Captain America, Havok, Thor and Rogue, while the headline reads “Xavier gone, dream still alive: Mutants and humans work together; stop Red Skull from murder spree’. Thor puts a hand on Wolverine’s shoulder and tells him that he did not fail Xavier. ‘He knew you would get it right. Knew you would double the fight without him. Only this time… you will not be fighting alone’ Thor declares as he turns and leaves.
Three months from now…
The sky is tinted red. A robotic figure stalks the sky. ‘I hope we lost them…I don’t have enough left to take down another one of Stark’s Nimrod units’ Havok calls out as he rushes through a city, the Scarlet Witch behind him, holding a map, she points out that Ahab wrote it under terrible duress and that it is nearly illegible. ‘Do your best - they are not far behind’ Sunfire calls out as he flies above Wanda and Havok. Arriving at a manhole, Wanda exclaims ‘There. This is the one’. Havok opens the grate, and Sunfire tells him to hurry, as they are coming. The three mutants drop down into the tunnel beneath the city, and Sunfire asks ‘Why here? Why now?’
Havok tells him that with events of this magnitude, it is impossible to know. ‘But there’s no way he traveled here recently’ Wanda adds, and Sunfire lights up the tunnel, illuminating the carcass of the time-traveler called Immortus. ‘From the looks of him, I’d agree’ Sunfire remarks, suggesting that Immortus must have arrived centuries ago, before the Apocalypse Twins locked the era as Prime. ‘He left a message’ Sunfire points out, as a small carving of the Red Skull, using telepathy, has been drawn onto the tunnel wall. ‘Cable was right - that was it. The moment the anomaly began. The moment the seven became one’ Sunfire announces. Suddenly, a voice calls out ‘Yes, indeed a historic time…the day the ONSLAUGHT began’, and standing before the heroes is the corpse of Charles Xavier, half of his head missing, his eyes glowing green - and the being who made the announcement…Onslaught…?