Warbird has seen a lot in her short life, but even she is mesmerized at the sight of Captain America as he engages in battle with some of the Avengers mansion training room robots. Years ago, after decades in suspended animation, Cap awoke to a new world and, while the world around Steve Rogers undoubtedly changed, his strength and spirit were still in dire need. Today, he is still a soldier, leading the Avengers in the fight to make the world a safer place.
Watching him distracts Carol long enough for another robot to grab her from behind and carry her straight through one of the walls. However, Carol, though a little shocked, manages to blast the robot back through the wall and clamber out through a swirl of dust. That’ll teach her for not keeping her head in the game, she thinks. Cap suddenly cries out for her, telling her that he’s pinned to the ground and he needs her to shoot the robot which is preparing to land a punch. She prepares to fire a blast of energy but warns Cap that he’s too close and she might just as easily hit him. He orders her to shoot, so she aims and fires, only to see her shot go over both their bodies.
“Time for plan B!” says Cap, and he slams his fist down onto his shield which flips up towards his assailant. The robot is momentarily caught off balance, as it blocks the shield’s path. This allows Cap to free himself, using a two-footed kick to the torso. He follows up with a swipe of his fist, which tears through the robot’s armor and disables it.
With their opponents down for the count, Cap pick up his shield, as Carol floats to the ground. She can’t believe it: he didn’t need her help after all. “Of course,” says Cap, adding that this was a training exercise designed to test her. She asks if she failed and he counters by asking if she made the shot. Carol says that’s a crock; the shot was impossible and Cap knows it. He tells Carol that is was only impossible because she believed it was. He points out that she was in the Air Force and should know that victory takes confidence and discipline; the will to succeed.
Carol replies sarcastically that he’s caught her out, she doesn’t actually want to succeed, but Cap asks her not to be so flip. All he’s saying is that she needs to stop selling herself short. If he didn’t think she had the right stuff, he’d never have let her become an Avenger in the first place and certainly wouldn’t have let her nearly take his head off.
Carol begins to apologize, but their attention is caught by a call from the Avengers’ butler, Jarvis, whose face appears on the monitor. He says he’s sorry to interrupt, but Captain America’s presence is required in the infirmary. They have a rather weary visitor who claims to be an associate of the X-Men.
Soon, both Cap and Warbird join Jarvis, who is placing a bandage around the forehead of the former X-Man known as Forge. Jarvis explains that he found him like this on the stoop. Forge says he’s glad Cap is here because they don’t have much time. He explains that, as Cap knows, much of the X-Men’s technology was a gift from the alien race known as the Shi’ar. However, there’s more that he is unaware of.
(The Xavier Institute for Higher Learning, earlier)
Beast and Forge have called Professor Xavier to a lab, as they have something they wish to show him. Hank explains that, while he was performing a routine diagnostic of their communications systems, he stumbled across something out of place and, considering Forge’s uncanny aptitude for creating technologies, he invited him over as a consultant. What they found was a computer chip, but not an ordinary chip, even under Shi’ar technological standards. Forge continues to point out that they’re not quite sure how or why, but this processor chip appears to have mutated. It is now absorbing massive amounts of energy, making a Pentium look like an abacus and it just keeps getting stronger.
Forge adds that, even with Henry’s smarts and his knack, they can’t seem to pinpoint the source. They even sent word to the Shi’ar, but their royal technicians claim they’ve never encountered such a phenomenon. “A mutant computer chip?” exclaims Charles, “What will be next, I wonder? A sentient toaster that fires ruby red eyebeams?” Hank suggests that the Avengers take a look at it, as they also boast an impressive array of diagnostic equipment. He’d like Forge to take this ‘uberchip’ to Avengers mansion and see what they can turn up, with his permission, of course. Charles agrees that, by all means, they should know what they’re dealing with.
Forge is warned that he should be discreet and to watch for anyone tailing him. Charles, meanwhile, calls S.H.I.E.L.D and other government agencies to see if they have any information that may be useful. As Forge heads away from the mansion, he is ambushed by a group of mercenaries calling themselves ‘the Contingency.’ They are Condor, Killdeer, Kite and Shrike and they’re all carrying weapons. They warn Forge to stop and hand over the suitcase he’s carrying, firing at his feet to prompt his decision. Before he can answer, Condor pistol-whips him and Kite uses a laser cutting tool to snap the chain holding the suitcase to Forge’s wrist. He says that, if their intel on the case is good, they’ll be instant billionaires. As they depart, Forge tries to warn them that the chip is dangerous but Shrike smacks him and leaves him unconscious on the track.
Forge explains to Cap that he was only out for a minute but, by the time he recovered, they were gone and so was the chip. Warbird reminds Cap that she’s had plenty of experience with the Shi’ar before; even her powers are fuelled by energies from their galaxy. Their technology, combined with the raw power that Forge describes, might not only be a world-changer, but they could be talking about a world destroyer!
Forge gets unsteadily to his feet and informs them that, in the event that something like this happened, he built a tracker that can home in on the chip’s unique signature and left it with Xavier. Jarvis was kind enough to let Forge use the phone and so he’s already explained everything to him. He’s sent one of the X-Men after it. Cap asks if one is enough, but Forge says that pretty much everyone is away on a mutant peace mission; besides, the guy who’s gone after it is the best there is at what he does.
(The sewers under New York City)
Wolverine makes his way in a determined fashion, through the sewers underneath New York City, a place all too familiar to him and his fellow X-Men. During his long life, he has witnessed the unthinkable acts performed by men using technology, having adamantium grafted to his skeleton being just one of those acts. They wanted to create the ultimate weapon, a superhuman monster they could control, but they could never tame Wolverine’s ferocious, feral mind. As a member of the X-Men, he has learned to repress his vicious temper, but he’ll never forget the agony technology can inflict while under the influence of evil. Carrying the chip’s tracker in his hand, he emerges from a tunnel into a junction but, despite the tracker telling him he’s almost on top of the chip, he hasn’t yet smelled a single body passing through there. Something ain’t right.
Suddenly, trails of mist swirl around him, strangely talking to him in a female voice, as they coil around his body. She asks if he’s looking for something and warns him to turn back now, or he’ll find is a shallow grave. Wolverine slashes at the mist with his claws to no avail and says, “You threatenin’ me? You serious?” The mist replies that she’s quite serious and she will show him just how serious she is. “Come fight me Wolverine,” she taunts, as the mist directs itself to a spot nearby. “Come fight, Rapture!” The mist evolves into a woman, who smiles at Logan, her arms outstretched as if to welcome an attack.
Wolverine responds as only he can, leaping towards her with his claws extended. He doesn’t care what her name is; she’s gonna give him what he came for and then she‘s gonna bleed. His primary attack fails, as Rapture avoids contact and watches Wolverine land head first in the murky water below. She taunts him, asking if something is wrong. “Finding your senses aren’t as razor-sharp as usual?” The rest of the Contingency then arrive nearby and Killdeer asks Kite what’s going on. He replies that Rapture’s going toe-to-toe with Wolverine and so Killdeer commands them to lock ‘n’ load. As they know what they’re up against, they should use the right magazines.
Captain America calls S.H.I.E.L.D and uses his clearance code, alpha-gamma-twenty, to confirm his identity. He asks for Agent Sharon Carter and Sharon’s face appears on the big screen in front of him. She asks what he wants and Cap asks knowingly if she’s having security issues. Sharon says she doesn’t know what he means but he tells her she knows exactly what he means; “A compromised communication from Charles Xavier?” She asks how he knows, but then admits that they’ve had a few back-door breaches on their comm-net lately and yes, the latest one was earlier today. She adds that this is an internal matter and she can assure him that they’ve located the cracks in their systems. Cap replies that he’s not a child and doesn’t need her assurances. He needs her to tell him about something called ‘the Contingency.’
Sharon hesitates before providing the information, but reluctantly gives him what he wants. She informs him that the Contingency was a black ops project developed here at S.H.I.E.L.D. They are souped-up assassins, basically, but recently they went rogue. They are led by a woman codenamed Rapture, a woman of moral ambiguity which made her perfect for the role. What’s worse is that she’s a low-level telepath and can anticipate her opponent’s next move. Plus, she’s equipped with an experimental neuro-net exoskeleton, which they were still developing when she swiped it. The suit makes her next to impossible to track or detect. In addition, it augments her strength by about a factor of ten.
Cap asks if the Contingency are now freelance mercs, but Sharon replies that Rapture would never work for anyone else. She imagines they’re in it for themselves. But, Cap asks, she said they were assassins. Who were their targets supposed to be and what were they a contingency for? Sharon apologizes, but she cannot give him that information and says she’s very busy right now and signs off, though it pains her to keep information from Cap, who she’s known for many years now.
Warbird and Forge appear and Carol asks if he found anything out. Some, he says, but they’re not telling him the whole story. Forge suggests that maybe they can get it first hand and shows Cap a new tracking device he’s cobbled together. However, as he no longer has the chip’s energy signature, he’s had to build it to recognize Wolverine’s adamantium skeleton. He just hopes Cap didn’t need that telephone in the foyer! “MacGyver’ a punk,” grins Carol.
Cap tells them that their course is set then. He tells Forge that, no offense, he’s helped immensely, but he thinks that it’s best if he sits this one out, gets some rest and let Professor Xavier know that he and Warbird don’t intend to let that chip rest in the hands of a group of petty thugs. He tells Carol that they should get to work; as tough as Wolverine is, he suspects he could do with some help.
(The sewers under New York City)
Rapture joins Wolverine in the water and moves back a fraction to avoid being slashed by a two-armed attack. She gets in close to Wolverine and uses her augmented strength to smack Wolverine several yards back into the water. He comes at her again, but her telepathy allows her to duck and dive whenever he’s about to strike.
However, the madder Wolverine becomes, the more difficult it is to read his mind and he manages to land a telling punch, sending Rapture arching backwards into the drink. Once she’s down, he moves closer and tells her to hand over the chip or he’s gonna have to stop playing nice. “We’d like to see you try, tough guy,” says Killdeer, and Wolverine turns to find himself faced with the remaining four members of the Contingency. He says he was wondering when they would show themselves.
Rapture recovers and asks if he’s ready to die now. He’s feeling confident, as bullets have little effect on him, and tells them to get this over with. All four begin blasting him. “With pleasure,” says Killdeer. Cap and Warbird hear the shots from elsewhere in the tunnels and dash towards where the sounds came from. Cap says that they shouldn’t be too worried, as he’s seen Wolverine take a fragment grenade in the belly and get right back up. Carol says she’s seen worse but, still, they’d better move it.
They round a corner and stop in their tracks, looking aghast as they see Wolverine’s body slumped face down in the water, his jacket riddled with bullet holes. “Cap,” says Carol, “Shouldn’t he be getting up?”