USAgent (2nd series) #3

Issue Date: 
October 2001
Story Title: 
A Matter of Trust

Jerry Ordway (writer & penciler), Karl Kesel (inker), VLM (colorist), John Workman (letterer), Mark Sumerak (assistant editor), Tom Brevoort (editor), Joe Quesada (editor in chief), Bill Jemas (president)

Brief Description: 

Captain America arrives to stop the battle between USAgent and the Power Broker, instead Cap and USAgent begin fighting. Kali Vries pursues the Power Broker. The Power Broker finds Senator Warkovsky, who is also under the control of the mind-control bug, while the Power Broker admires his plan - that all the dignitaries in the conference center will be infected with the bugs. USAgent escapes from Captain America, and confronts Vries, eventually taking her down with his energy-truncheon. The Senator begins his speech, during which he starts getting disorientated and realizing he is saying things that he does not mean. The media watch and record him, before USAgent attacks the Senator. Captain America attempts to intervene, while the Power Broker is confused as to why USAgent is confronting the Senator. Cap and USAgent battle for a time, and just as USAgent prepares to destroy the mind-control bug on the Senator, Cap pulls him away. The battle is watched on television by the Avengers, the Fantastic Four, USAgent’s STARS team, and Dr Valerie Cooper, who hopes USAgent knows what he is doing, otherwise they are both in need of new jobs. The Power Broker reveals how he encountered the alien mind control bug - and how the “mother ship” is now bonded to him. He plants a mind-control bug on Vries, while Cap finally stops and listens to USAgent, who removes the bug from Senator Warkovsky. The mind-controlled delegates begin attacking the super heroes, and while Cap holds them at bay, USAgent seeks out the Power Broker. He removes the mind-control bug from Vries, before ripping the “mother ship” alien from the Power Broker’s back. Dum Dum Dugan and SHIELD arrive, and Dugan announces that Vries has been a double-agent for SHIELD. He orders USAgent not to destroy the alien, but USAgent does so. Later, USAgent sets on fire a letter and photo Vries sent to him in an attempt to apologize, before receiving a new mission from Valerie Cooper.

Full Summary: 

The Superhuman Tactical Response Squad - STARS - is the watchdog that governs all aspects of super-powered crime and punishment. Members of STARS are in Seattle, at a conference center, watching Steve Rogers a.k.a. Captain America crash down through a glass ceiling. STARS are involved here because they were apprehending some low-level prison escapees and uncovered a smuggling operation - a Hydra base in Italy and a rebel outpost in Atlantis. Someone was trying to amass an army of loyalists by ingecting them with a mind-controlling bug. Agent Kali Vries supposes that that someone is the sucker cowering in the corner from Captain America - Curtis Jackson a.k.a. the Power Broker.

Agent Vries thinks to herself that Captain America is here because SHIELD entrusted him to retrieve the satchel of bugs that STARS liberated from Atlantis. However, John Walker a.k.a. USAgent, snatched the bugs first and brought the bag to the Power Broker - as John is under control of one of those bugs. Kali knows this because she is the one who planted the bug on his neck. ‘I’m the rotten spy appointed to STARS by my patron - Senator Warkovsky. And no, I don’t sleep well at night’ Vries thinks to herself, while Captain America’s shield slams into USAgent’s shield, knocking Walker backwards.

The Power Broker grabs the duffel bag and thinks to himself that Walker must have been followed, and steps into an elevator. ‘I can only blame myself! Well, when life serves up lemons, you make lemonade’ the Power Broker thinks to himself, while the elevator doors close, and Vries calls out to him, telling him to hold up, and that she is placing him under arrest. Vries quickly enters the stairwell, sighing that nothing is ever easy, and that she should know that by now.

The Power Broker adjusts his tie as he recalls that Vries is the Senator’s flunky, and wonders why she would bring Captain America to his doorstep, before boasting to himself that Senator Warkovsky will answer for this. Moments later, the Power Broker enters the Senator’s dressing room, where the Senator is combing his hair, and asks ‘Jackson? What the hell brings you to Seattle?’ Jackson approaches Warkovsky and declares ‘Never mind that! Tell me why your Agent Vries would bring one of the Avengers here, jeopardizing everything!’

Warkovsky spins around in his chair and points at the Power Broker, telling him that if an Avenger is here, the Avengers is after Jackson, not him. ‘I swear by the almighty, if they disrupt my trade conference…I’ll serve you up to them on a silver platter!’. Jackson looks slightly nervous, and tells the Senator to watch his blood pressure, reminding him that the USAgent is a former Avenger, and his puppet. ‘Rest assured, he will nip this in the bud!’ Jackson declares as he pats Warkovsky on the shoulder. The Senator replies that if diplomacy fails, Jackson can always introduce one of his “bugs” to his brain, unaware that a big has been placed on him.

‘Excellent suggestion, Senator. Now, go knock them dead with your velvet tongue!’ Jackson exclaims. ‘You just watch my poll numbers shoot up after this speech. I will own the five o’clock news today!’ the Senator boasts. ‘Of that, I have no doubt!’ the Power Broker replies, while thinking to himself ‘Especially since I plan on controlling your address to the media, dear Senator!’. The Power Broker looks down through a window, to the gathering assemblage of representatives and thinks to himself ‘Little do the assembled representatives below realize that they, too, will fall under my sway. Not from that windbag’s speech, but from the synaptic leech I placed within each and every person’s headset…allow direct access to a host!’ And at that moment, one of the dignitaries places the headset into his ear - and the mind control bug glows!

Meanwhile, Vries skulks about on a staircase, thinking to herself that she has searched just about every office, with no luck. ‘The Power Broker has to be on this level!’ she tells herself, before a voice calls out to her: ‘Hey, sweetness!’. Vries turns around and sees Walker - but he places her in a choke-hold. ‘But where’s -’ Vries begins, as John finishes her sentence for her: ‘-Cap? I gave him the slip’ Walker replies, before telling Vries that her pal Warkovsky is who he is after. ‘No, John - this has gone too far! He’s a United States Senator!’ Vries exclaims, before Walker shoves his energy-truncheon into Kali’s back, and kicking her in the head, causing her to fall to the ground. Walker then leaves the stairwell.

Shortly, the Senator stands on a platform before the various dignitaries and members of the media. ‘This is a fine day for Seattle, as we inaugurate this fabulous new facility!’ Warkovsky announces, before remarking that those who know him know he is not prone to bragging - ‘I heard that laugh’ he exclaims, before declaring that he worked tirelessly to make this structure a reality, just as he worked to bring this global conference here. ‘You see, I’m proud of what this state, first and foremost…and this country…have to offer the world’ Warkovsky declares.

The Senator continues his speech, declaring that he is certain that each and everyone before him feels the same way about their respective homelands. ‘That’s why you’re here’. The Senator exclaims that free trade, with no tariffs, and no borders, is the future. The Senator declares that modern communications have made their world a smaller, more immediate place, and global prosperity will make it a more hospitable place. ‘Our school-children already read books printed in China, wear shoes made in Malaysia, and play with toys made in Singapore. Their snacks are processed and packaged in Israel and in Germany. Is this - I mean, this is a good thing…I have no idea what I’m talking about. Somebody shoot me, please!’ the Senator mumbles.

‘Did I just say that?’ the Senator asks, rubbing his head. ‘What’s wrong with me - my brain?’ he asks. ‘Is it a stroke, or - the American system is antiquated!’ he exclaims. Clearly confused, the Senator nervously tells everyone to listen as he exclaims, that the United States has gone into half of their countries at one time or another, after a war or a natural disaster - and at great cost. ‘We rebuilt from the ground up then a few years passed, and we forgave the debt. You got back on your feet and stole the automobile from under our noses’. The Senator exclaims that you can insert just about any product in place of “automobile” and they can get the picture.

Several bodyguards move towards the Senator, while USAgent rushes at him from the other end of the stage. ‘None of us has the right to call ourselves “countries” anymore. We’re more like corporate subsidiaries. And I’ll -’ the Senator stops in his sentence, as USAgent knocks some people aside and exclaims ‘Hate to cut you off, Warkovsky, I kinda liked that last part!’. Suddenly, ‘Holster those guns, fellas!’ Captain America tells the bodyguards as he rushes towards USAgent, who has grabbed the Senator by the collar of his shirt. ‘Back off, Cap - I know what I’m doing!’ USAgent declares.

The Power Broker watches Cap and Walker battle, and he exclaims that he did not send Walker after the Senator. ‘Or did I? Has he picked up on my hostility toward Warkovsky and acted on it?’ Jackson wonders. He tells himself that it is possible, but reminds himself he does not want the Senator dead. He tells himself that he cannot see clearly into Walker’s mind, and supposes that USAgent’s will is stronger than he had guessed. The Power Broker crouches beside Vries and asks her how strong her will is. ‘I think we shall endeavor to find out’ he remarks as he reaches for her gagged mouth.

Back on the podium, ‘John - stand down! You’re not yourself!’ Captain America shouts, while Walker prepares to bring his energy-truncheon down on the Senator. ‘Trust me for once, man - I’ve never been more myself! This guy is not getting away from me!’ Johnny exclaims as he pushes himself up on his hands, and kicks Captain America in the face, before lunging back at the Senator. Captain America races after Walker, telling him that his team thinks one of those bugs has taken a hold of him. ‘Don’t ask me to trust you, Walker - not today!’ Captain America exclaims. ‘No, no!’ the Senator shouts. USAgent grabs the Senator’s leg, while Captain America wraps himself around Johnny’s waist. ‘And not while you’re assaulting a United States Senator!’ Captain America adds.

‘This isn’t your perfect world! Politicians can be scumbags, just like anybody else!’ Walker exclaims. ‘I didn’t come here to fight you’ Captain America exclaims, before USAgent punches him in the face. ‘Tell me another story, “daddy”!’ Walker jokes, before Captain America punches back, knocking Walker off of him as he exclaims ‘This may come as a surprise to you, Walker, but I have a life!’ Cap declares. Bodyguards tend to the Senator, while Cap leaps towards USAgent, exclaiming ‘I don’t spend my days wondering if I’m better than you!’

‘Well I do! Ever since the Commission named me your successor!’ Walker shouts as he attempts to kick Captain America, but Captain America rolls with it, and flips Walker over himself, ‘Even after I stepped aside’ Johnny adds. Captain America lies on USAgent as he pins him to the ground, putting one arm under Walker’s chin, and holding one of Walker’s arms back with his other. ‘I’ll admit you do sound like yourself, John, but Agent Vries helped me track you here, and she’s -’ Cap begins, while USAgent interrupts: ‘Dirty as they come! She’s got the lot of you buffaloed!’ Walker shouts, ‘But not me!’ he boasts, as he forces himself up, knocking Captain America into the lectern.

Walker punches Cap and declares ‘See, I’m a pretty good judge of people, and I can picture Vries cozying up with the Power Broker or the Senator’. Captain America falls off the podium and into a crowd of reporters, while USAgent crawls back to the Senator, exclaiming ‘All the good I’ve ever done - as an Avenger, or as a member of STARS - and you take sides against me…believe someone you’ve known for less than a day?’ Walker asks Captain America. Walker grabs the Senator by the collar of his shirt, and holds his energy-truncheon towards the mind-control bug, telling him to hang on, as this won’t hurt a bit - but before Walker can remove the mind-control bug, Captain America grabs his feet, and Johnny falls to his stomach as Cap pulls him backwards along the podium. ‘No!’ Cap shouts. ‘You just don’t give up!’ Johnny exclaims.

Meanwhile, at Avengers Mansion, the Wasp and Edwin Jarvis are watching the situation with Cap and USAgent as reported by the media. ‘Oh, dear. Will you alert the others?’ Jarvis asks, but the Wasp replies that they will just keep an eye on them for now. At the Baxter Building, the Thing tells the Human Torch that watching Cap and USAgent is better than watching WWF wrestling. At STARS headquarters, Farley Mowat tells Allie MacGruder that they had it all worked out, so wonders why Cap and USAgent are fighting each other. ‘Unless…’ he begins. ‘Unless what?’ Allie asks. ‘The boss has one of those bugs on him, but I thought I took care of it before he left!’ Farley exclaims. ‘And now you’re thinking it’s not taken care of?’ Allie asks.

At the Commission on Superhuman Affairs, Dr Valerie Cooper watches the battle on her laptop, ‘I hope you know what you’re doing, John. Or we’ll both be looking for new jobs’ Valerie thinks to herself.

Back at the conference center, the Power Broker watches the battle also, and remarks ‘He’s not responding to my commands, Miss Vries’. Agent Vries swears to the Power Broker that USAgent is playing host to one of the mind-control devices, to which Jackson announces ‘Oh, I sense it on him. And I am not so bold as to lay claim to their creation. I merely discovered them’. Jackson reveals that a short time back when their planet was being used as an intergalactic penal colony by the Kree, he was recruiting some of those aliens into his employ.

Flashback, narrated by the Power Broker:
Jackson explains that using the meager equipment at his disposal, he determined where the highest concentration of alien landings would occur, and foolishly attempted to communicate with the alien inmates. But the aliens were little more than savage animals - not at all what he had expected. Realizing his blunder, he offered them no resistance as he was attacked by them - and they assumed him to be dead, discarding him with some of their other victims - a platoon of SHIELD agents, who, presumably, couldn’t play dead, and now were so.

It was lying amongst the corpses that Jackson found what he had been looking for - an intelligent alien being. The parasitic alien had lost her host, and she sought a replacement - all she wished for was to survive and breed. And for that, the alien gave the Power Broker the power to control mankind.

Jackson removes his suit jacket and shirt as he tells Vries that once the foreign delegation downstairs returns to their homelands, his influence will be felt across the globe. ‘Are you ready to join their ranks?’ he asks as he reaches around to his back, where the alien has lodged itself, covering his entire back, the alien pushes out a small mind-controlling bug, which Jackson holds up to Vries, ‘It - it’s living off of you?’ Vries asks, horrified. ‘I mean - it’s disgusting!’ she exclaims. ‘A minor discomfort, Miss Vries, for an infinite supply of these which she can secrete at an amazing rate’ Jackson explains, before telling Vries not to be nervous, and that she will make a fine host. The Power Broker announces that he must return his attention to USAgent, as he reaches down and places the bug on Kali’s neck, while Vries shouts ‘I can’t handle not being in control!’.

Back on the podium, USAgent holds the Senator and motions to the mind-control bug, asking Cap if that looks normal, before telling him to let go of his arm. Cap stops: ‘Okay. What’s the plan?’ he asks. Both men hold the Senator down as Walker exclaims that a little surgery might be able to save the Senator’s head. ‘Not funny’ Cap replies, while Walker uses the energy-truncheon to remove the mind-control bug. The Senator lets out a little cry, before Walker spins him around by his tie and crushes the mind-control bug in his hand. ‘Your pal the Power Broker pulled a fast one on you, scumbag!’ Walker exclaims. ‘Damn him! I use people - I am not used by people…especially Curtis Jackson!’ Senator Warkovsky declares, annoyed.

The media take photographs and film the goings-ons as Walker tells the Senator that the Power Broker has manipulated bigger fish than him in his day, to which the Senator replies ‘Jackson’s money bought campaign commercials, not me!’. Captain America motions to the reporters and tells Warkovsky to smile for the networks. ‘I suspect they’re interested in campaign finance reforms as much as I am’ Cap declares. ‘We can hope’ Walker mutters. Suddenly, the international delegation rushes towards Cap and Walker. ‘Now what?’ Cap exclaims. ‘The Power Broker must be controlling them, too!’ Johnny suggests. As the delegation begin clutching at the heroes, Cap tells John that they cannot hurt them, as they are innocent pawns.

‘That’s where we differ. I’m not afraid to cause a little international incident now and again!’ Walker exclaims as he throws one of the dignitaries into the air. ‘Walker!’ Cap exclaims, before telling his long-time associate to go, as he will manage the crowd. Cap clears a path with his trusty shield and tells Walker to go settle things up with Jackson. ‘Not to mention the conveniently absent Agent Vries!’ Johnny exclaims as he takes his leave.

Back in the control room, Jackson watches the proceedings, annoyed that his plan is not working, he wonders if a few lives need to be sacrificed to have some impact. ‘My brain’s getting fuzzy. But I’m almost…’ Vries thinks to herself, before shouting ‘FREE!’ as he breaks the bonds around her wrists, and leaps upwards. ‘Eh? I do admire your tenacity…’ the Power Broker exclaims as he spins around, before telling Vries that she serves him now, and she levitates off the ground. ‘I could easily instruct you to pluck out your eyes or hurl yourself out a window’ Jackson exclaims, before USAgent kicks his way into the room. ‘But I’ll throw you at him, instead!’ Jackson declares, and Vries is tossed across the room, knocked into Walker.

‘Nice, Jackson’ Walker mutters, before flipping Vries to the ground. ‘You may just as well had her cluck like a chicken for all the good it’s done’ Johnny points out, adding that Vries fights better with her own mind,and he shoves the energy-truncheon against the mind-control bug, causing it to release itself from Kali’s neck. ‘You behave, or I’ll put it back’ Walker warns Vries. ‘Do it. Put it back on her neck!’ the Power Broker exclaims. ‘I command you!’ he declares, staring at Walker. ‘Uhhh…get over yourself already, Curtis!’ Johnny exclaims as he smacks the Power Broker in the face, knocking him bacwakrds. ‘You’re not dealing with some greedy politician now. I’m a super-cope…and I’m authorized to bring you in - minus that nasty growth on your back, of course!’ Walker exclaims.

Walker tells Vries to hold the Power Broker steady, and she does so, as Walker uses his eagle-shaped shield to scrape the alien from the Power Broker’s back. ‘Whoa! You’re giving me a headache, slimy!’ Johnny exclaims as he holds the nasty alien up. ‘John - be careful’ Vries exclaims, while Captain America enters the room, announcing that the crowd suddenly stopped swarming, before he sees the alien. ‘Good God!’ he declares. ‘Beauty, huh?’ Walker asks. Walker asks Cap to cuff Vries for him, announcing that he is placing her under arrest, too. ‘Cap - no! We’re all on the same side!’ Vries protests. ‘She reports to the Senator, and infected me not once, but twice with those bugs! Cuff her!’ Johnny exclaims.

After Captain America cuffs Vries, USAgent tells her that he was on to her from day one. ‘I set you up with Val Cooper’s blessing! I needed to see just how dirty you were…so I played dumb with you’ Walker informs Vries. ‘You deserve the Academy Award then, “Peach”. I really thought you were dumb’ Vries tells USAgent. ‘Crack wise, Kali, but it tore my heart out again, to know you’d stooped so low’ Walker tells her, asking her what she sold her soul for - job advancements? Kicks? ‘The greatest risk I took was letting you plant the bugs on me!’ Walker declares., before dropping them alien. ‘Whoops. Slippery, ain’t she?’ he remarks, before thanking Cap, who puts a boot on it.

USAgent announces that he had one of his crew whip up a device that scrambles the neuro-signal that the mind-control bugs transmit. ‘So - you were never in its control?’ Cap asks. ‘Not completely’ Walker replies, explaining that he was just under enough to be drawn back to the “mother-alien” here, and discover who was behind all this. Walker holds his energy-truncheon to the alien, while Vries exclaims ‘Walker - don’t kill it!’

Suddenly, Dum-Dum Dugan of SHIELD enters the office, followed by some SHIELD agents. ‘Listen to the lady, hotshot. She’s part of a covert SHIELD operation!’ Dugan reveals, announcing that Vries has worked hard gaining the Senator’s confidence because he was their line to whoever was pushing the alien bugs. ‘My agents will take that thing from under your boot. That’s our prize’ Dugan declares, before ordering USAgent to uncuff SHIELD Agent Vries. ‘You covert jerks used STARS - used me - to track this case? I want to see documentation - signed orders!’ Walker declares, before holding up his energy-truncheon, pointing out that Vries killed one of the Power Broker’s operatives - Machete - to keep him from talking. ‘Tell Dugan about that’ Walker exclaims.

Wide-eyed, Kali announces that the truth is, Machete’s death was an accident. ‘And you want to know why I’m ashamed to admit it?’ she asks, pointing out that, alive, Machete could have led them to the Power Broker, and she would not have had to use USAgent like she did. ‘I apologize for that’ she claims. ‘A trait we have in common. Hope you like your meat well-done!’ USAgent exclaims as he shoves the energy-truncheon against the alien creature. ‘Stop him!’ Dugan shouts, but Cap holds him back. ‘You tin-star son-of a -’ Dugan begins, before Walker removes his helmet: ‘You want a piece of me, old man - get in line!’ he shouts. ‘That was evidence!’ Dugan exclaims.

Walker reaches to his neck and pulls off the small mind-control bug, declaring ‘I got a theory, and you’re going to hear it! These things aren’t alien at all. I think your genetics lab cooked ‘em up to mind-control the alien riff-raff dumped here by the Galactic Council!’. Walker suggests that something went bad, and the mother-bug disappeared. ‘In the wrong hands, it’s a pretty dangerous concept. So you want it back’ he suggests, slapping the small mind-control bug into Dugan’s hand, adding that the trouble is, he doesn’t think it can be trusted in anyone’s hands, and presses down as he shakes Dugan’s hand.

Dugan tells Walker to save his self-righteousness for the bleeding hearts. ‘This is the real world!’ he exclaims. Walker takes the Power Broker, telling Dugan not to lose sleep over it. ‘I have no proof - which is why Curtis Jackson is the only one destined for prison greys today’ Walker declares, adding that even the Senator has a “stay out of jail alibi”, as he was mind-controlled on national television. ‘Can you believe that jerk?’ Dugan mutters. ‘Actually yes, I do’ Captain America declares as he picks up the duffel bag of mind-control bugs. ‘Hey - Cap! Where do you think you’re taking that satchel?’ Dugan asks/ ‘Someplace safe, Dugan. Someplace safe’ Cap replies.

Later, USAgent sits at the kitchen bench in his quarters, looking at a photo of himself an Kali Vries, back in their younger days. A letter sits on the bench, from Vries, asking Walker to forgive her. Johnny looks at the photo, before setting it alight, and putting it in the sink, where dishes are piled high. Suddenly, Walker’s wrist-communicator goes off - it’s Valerie Cooper, who informs John that she has two bits of business for him, announcing firstly that Warkovsky is officially out of their hair. ‘Second…it’s about your suspension’ Val begins, ‘Warkovsky losing the election warms my heart, Val. Don’t ruin the moment with bad news’ Walker exclaims.

Valerie informs Johnny that his suspension has been lifted by the Commission, and she has another assignment for him. ‘What is it? A bail jumper? Tell me it’s some big, dumb ape with a nasty attitude!’ Walker exclaims, before declaring that he is not picky. ‘I love this job!’ he tells Valerie as he races off, leaving the photo smoldering in the kitchen sink.

Characters Involved: 

Dr Valerie Cooper

Allie MacGruder, Farley Mowat, Kali Vries (all STARS)

Captain America, Wasp (both Avengers)
Edwin Jarvis

Human Torch II, Thing (both Fantastic Four)

Senator Warkovsky

The Power Broker

Dum-Dum Dugan
SHIELD officers

Various dignitaries

In Flashback:
Power Broker
SHIELD officers

In Photograph:
John Walker
Kali Vries

Story Notes: 

John Walker, then known as Super-Patriot, replaced Steve Rogers as Captain America in Captain America (1st series) #333. Steve Rogers resumed the role in Captain America (1st series) #350, while Walker became USAgent in Captain America (1st series) #354.

Vries planted the bug on USAgent in USAgent (2nd series) #1. This was spotted by Mowat in USAgent (2nd series) #2, but Vries say this and later placed a second bug on USAgent.

Kali Vries killed Machete in USAgent (2nd series) #1.

STARS have not appeared since this issue, and soon after, USAgent joins up with the New Invaders. [Avengers (3rd series) #82, New Invaders #0-9]

Written By: