Manhattan, where Spider-Man has just captured a criminal and wrapped him tightly in webbing, leaving him suspended mid-air: ‘Warm enough now, chuckles? Next time you get chilly after dark, just skip past the fur warehouse and come straight to me… save us all a lot of trouble!’ Spider-Man tells the criminal, unaware that a psychic projection of his friend Nate Grey floats behind him, and Nate thinks to himself ‘Spidey doesn’t need me’.
Nate’s psychic projection moves on, to an apartment where his companions Jam, Bux, Marita and the boy Roust are staying. ‘And fade out on the chorus, J?’ Roust asks Jam as he plays the guitar. ‘But kick it up a quarter-beat on the way’ Jam replies as she sits at a table and writes notes. Marita and Bux are in the kitchen preparing a meal, singing along. Nate decides that they are better off without him, and the same goes for the rest of New York. ‘And they’d agree, I’m sure. Don’t need my telepathy back to know that. After the way I failed ‘em all…’.
‘A mistake, Nate… in the revisiting, particularly’ Madelyne Pryor tells Nate from inside his apartment. ‘When I finally caught up to you, slumming with that “White Witch”, I was no more anxious than you were to rush straight back to Dublin’. Madelyne continues, as Nate stands nearby, ‘Still, when you asked me to teleport us here first…’ Nate explains that he needed a break, after running around with Generation X, and running into the Dark Beast again. ‘After losing…’ his voice trails off. ‘Sylph. You told me all right’ Madelyne mutters, before asking Nate how he thought a long weekend in his old loft, where he used to live with Threnody - where he was abandoned by Threnody - ‘Don’t know what I was thinking, okay?’ Nate replies, interrupting Madelyne, before asking her to take them back to Ireland, as there is obviously nothing left here for him anymore. A green glow surrounds Nate and Madelyne as the vanish, when, from out of the shadows, ‘Natey…? Here again? Right here in my home - our home… with my murderer?’ Threnody snarls as she steps from the shadows, looking furious.
Meantime, ‘Where, Mr MacAleer… where is Nate Grey? One minute and counting, whiskers - one last chance to tell us - before we drag it out of your wife… permanently’ a female soldier inside a suit of armor tells Mr MacAleer as another soldier in the armor holds him back, and Mrs MacAleer has collapsed to her knees. Others in the building are kept back by more people in the strange armor. ‘Ye can…ye can’t be serious…’ Mrs MacAleer calls out. ‘Ye’re daring to threaten me wife - meself - here, in our house….’ Mr MacAleer exclaims. ‘In front of our boarders?’ Mrs MacAleer adds, while Mr MacAleer warns the intruders that the Garda will feed them all to the army as scrap metal. A man not wearing the armor announces ‘Won’t happen, I’m afraid. Better to disabuse all of you, right here and now, of any notion that help is on the way’.
He continues, stating that, as planned, this entire operation has been smoke screened in red tape since the moment his people established a perimiter - effectively cutting local law enforcement out of the loop. ‘Strikesquad: Gauntlet answers to a…higher authority’ he claims. Another member of the Strikesquad: Gauntlet continues the countdown, while up above, the enigmatic Ness has placed himself between the floorboards, and looks at the situation below through a small hole in the wood. He realizes that this is the same psi-ops he crossed paths with up north, but the armor has improved, although not the attitude. Ness sees that the dark-haired female is ready to sonically tear out the information that they are after, and there is no way he can crash the “party” without getting everyone killed. He has been through every inch of this house, and still he has got nothing, except the knowledge that one of those toy-soldiers is not what he or she appears to be - one of them acted on their own last time, outside the chain of command, to protect and preserve an innocent mind.
‘It doesn’t have to be like this, Mac’ one of the men inside the armor calls out. ‘Breda…’ MacAleer utters to his wife. ‘…not a word about the boy, Conor…’ Breda tells her husband. ‘Not a word to bullies and invaders - not here on our soil - not ever again!’ she screams. ‘Aye!’ ‘Ye’ve no right…!’ ‘Our land…!’ ‘Begone!’ the boarders start to chant. Ness tells himself that he will have to trust that their secret sympathizer will come through again, when it comes down to it. ‘Three. Two’ the countdown gets closer, as the commander of the Strikesquad: Gauntlet announces ‘On my mark, G-2, and not a second before’, while Ness adds ‘Long as nobody does anything stupid, first’, when, suddenly, Nate and Madelyne materialize in the room. ‘Cheers, everyone’ Nate calls out. ‘Grey’s here - now, now - take him down!’ one of the women inside the Strikesquad: Gauntlet armor cries out as she begins to fire at Nate and Madelyne.
‘What am I? Chopped liver?’ Madelyne mutters, but Nate tells her that, thanks to his telekinetic shield, she isn’t, as he creates one that protects them both from the energy fire. Nate instructs Madelyne to stay behind him so they can figure out how to stop these maniacs. ‘No, wait - wait! We’ve got civilians in the line of fire here, exposed to ricochets…do something, commander! Fast!’ one of the women inside the armor calls out. ‘Disengage, Gauntlet - G-1, G-2 - disengage immediately!’ the commander orders. ‘Yeah, yeah. I hear y’, Scanlon’ the man in the armor replies, before pointing out that Vise has just cranked up the volume again, as the other woman indeed increases the power of her weapons. ‘Run, Conor…run while we can -’ Breda calls out, before Conor screams ‘Nooo!’ as a shard of metal of glass is flung into Breda’s arm.
‘Enough already! When waiting for the right moment is no longer an option…’ Ness calls out as he drops through the ceiling, and lands between Nate and Madelyne and the members of Strikesquad: Gauntlet. Scanlon tells G-2 to stand down, while Ness concludes that the only option is to do what is right for the moment. Nate tells Bess that he was starting to worry about him, while Scanlon declares ‘The mystery man himself, finally’. Scanlon announces that reconnaissance placed him on the scene long before the rest of the squad arrived. ‘So we knew you had to be on-premises somewhere…but both you and the red-head back there - are secondary targets, at most’ he adds, stating that the real threat has always been the alpha-psi code-named X - Nate Grey.
Scanlon states that Grey’s power levels are immeasurable by their standards, and that he is a danger to this world, that much they do no. ‘And you’re not even of this world’ Scanlon adds. Conor MacAleer starts to panic, and reminds everyone that his wife has taken shrapnel in the leg and that she is building heavily, slipping into shock already. ‘You heard the man, Maddie’ Nate calls out, instructing her to teleport the Macs to the nearest hospital, while he takes care of business here. Madelyne starts to open a portal to teleport through, and tells Nate that she hates this. ‘You know that - abandoning you in the middle of a war-zone again - but arguing about it got you blindsided in Latveria, a couple of weeks ago, so…just promise to save the big one for me’ Madelyne tells him before she and the MacAleers vanish. ‘No can do, Red - THESE SUCKERS ARE ALL MINE!’ Nate shouts as he bursts forth, full of rage.
‘And they’re all -’ Nate begins, before a burst of power slams against a force field. ‘Done…?’ one of the Strikesquad: Gauntlet soldiers asks, adding that even their old armors were externally psi-sheened. Another points out that they are functionally engineered to effectively deflect any and all psionic assaults. ‘Both telepathic and telekinetic’ the third declares. ‘Can’t say the same for the architecture, apparently’ one of them remarks, as the building begins to creak. ‘Uh-oh’ one of the boarders mutters, looking up. ‘Get out of here, you two - now!’ Ness exclaims as he pushes the boarders aside - just as the floor above collapses on him. Scanlon gets in and grabs Ness, ‘Too late’ he tells him, suggesting that he shouldn’t be dishing out advice that he is too stupid to follow. ‘You keep breathing now as long as you keep talking…and only as long’ Scanlon instructs Ness, before asking him who is he, to Nate Grey, exactly, what his connection is to the alpha-target, what it is he can tell them about Grey that they don’t know, and what will stop him the fastest, with the least amount of casualties.
Scanlon has his arm wrapped around Ness’s neck, and Ness watches as Nate unleashes his powers against the armored soldiers. Ness sees the boarders escape, and points out that he has already bought enough time for the last of the hostages to get clear. ‘But the particulars of your questions speak to a more immediate concern, I see…your hit squad is clearly better armored against the boy than armed. He can’t touch them, true enough…but they can’t harm him, either’. Nate darts about as the soldiers fire their weapons at him, but he is protected by his telekinetic shield. ‘Nice try, Grey. Your spandex spider-pal set us up like that once, used our own weapons against us - but we’ve upgraded, sport. We’re all gauntlet-proof now!’ the male soldier boasts, as the weapons of one of his comrades do nothing to harm him.
‘Guess we are, G-man. But in case you weren’t paying attention earlier - the ceiling isn’t’ Nate replies, as it collapses around them. ‘You’r point…?’ one of the Strikesquad members asks. Ness tells Scanlon that he suspects that Nate is distracting the big guns with home-grown guerrilla tactics, and catching them off-guard in the fallout. ‘You expected it to bring the house down…? Actually prepared for it?’ Scanlon asks as he struggles to get his breath after being caught up in the collapse. Ness replies that he expected something, prepared for anything, and braced for the worst. ‘Now it’s your turn to share, Scanlon. Starting from the top…what kind of resources are we up against here? Who’s funding this so-called strike force - and who’s determined to see Nate Grey dead?’ Ness demands.
‘That’s an easy one, Ness… but you won’t like the answer, believe me’ Scanlon replies, while the three Strikesquad: Gauntlet operatives continue to fire at Nate. ‘Full-field volleys aren’t making a dent! If we can’t find some crack in his defenses…we’ll make one!’ one of the operatives declares, while another calls out ‘Quick-link gauntlet targeting systems - auto-focus a concentrated barrage of exposed kill zone A22 - and give him all we got, together…same place, same time!’ they shout. ‘By the ones who came before! If what you say is true, Scanlon…’ Ness utters, before calling out to Nate and telling him that the tin men are the least of his problems. ‘It’s not listening’ Scanlon remarks as the floor around them collapses. Ness grabs Scanlon, and holds onto the floorboards that remain in place. ‘He’s scared and angry, commander…just like you’ Ness points out. The Strikesquad: Gauntlet members hover in the air, while Ness explains that Nate’s rage tears at the very earth beneath their feet. ‘So you are in no position to anger me now, as well’.
‘Good one, Sparky, if we were gravity-bound. But we can fly, remember?’ one of the Strikesquad members declares. ‘My mistake’ Nate frowns, blood tricking from his nose. ‘But now that you mention flying…’ he begins, while Ness calls out to him, telling him to stop, that they have both got to leave here immediately. Outside, a group of civilians has gathered. ‘Party at the Macs?’ one of them asks. ‘Without a word to neighbors and friends?’ another enquires A third tells the others that it is just what he has been saying since the Macs started taking in strangers - ‘There goes the neighborhood!’ he adds before the rooftop suddenly lifts off the boarding house. Furniture and other belongings start to float up into the sky, as Scanlon, still being held up by Ness, explains that they are looking at a momentary negation of localized gravimetric fields here, a gravity-free zone, effectively, where everything is hurled straight out into space by the sheer centrifugal force of the planet’s rotation.
The civilians outside start to run away from the half-demolished boarding house, while Scanlon announces that all Gauntlet personnel are electro-anchored to the larger magnetic-matrix of the glove itself, still grounded. ‘You expected him to blow the house up…’ Ness realizes, looking down at Scanlon, who tells him that they had reason to believe he could. He continues, revealing that form what they were able to piece together up north, after the fact they theorized that Grey employed just such a strategy against the Great Bests themselves, shortly before they were sidetracked by Ness’s interference, so he maintained his grip during the eruption, just now, locking Ness down to Earth with him, only to even the score for earlier. ‘Look again, commander. From where I’m hanging - seems more like coming full-circle’ Ness replies.
Up above, one of the Strikesquad Gauntlet members grabs Nate by his wrist, and Nate looks concerned. ‘Wrong, Ness’ Scanlon calls out, explaining that with Grey virtually exhausted from that stunt and finally secured in the grasp of both G-1 and G-2, G-3 is free to see to the safety of her commanding officer, as per protocol. ‘Gotcha, Sir!’ G-3 calls out as she reaches out and pulls Scanlon from Ness’s grip. She adds that co-combatants are set in her sights as well, unable to evade, completely unarmed - and totally defenseless. ‘And no longer a threat, G-3’ Scanlon instructs her. He addresses her as Fontaine, and tells her that following procedure, to the letter, that means all available power returns to the mission-imperative again - the neutralization, without prejudice, of alpha-psi, X. ‘Not much meet here, after all, Barone. But don’t forget to make a wish…’ one of the Strikesquad operatives jokes as they hold Nate’s arm, and the other holds a leg.
Suddenly: ‘Sorry to cut in, Tank-Tops’ a voice calls out, it’s Madelyne who has re-materialized in front of Nate, who is surprised to see her. ‘But this one’s with me…and we’ve got some catching up to do’ Madelyne declares as she teleports Nate to safety. ‘Timing couldn’t be better, Red’ Nate tells Madelyne, adding that he tried everything he knows, everything that has ever worked. ‘And they anticipated every move’ Ness points out as he climbs out of the large hole in the ground. Ness remarks that Nate hasn’t tried anything new, and tells him not to just think bigger, but to think better.
However, as the smoke starts to clear, one of the Strikesquad: Gauntlet operatives appears, ‘Smoke won’t hide you for long, punk. System-sensors are already zeroing in on your heat-signature…’ they calls out. Annoyed, Nate turns to Madelyne and yells her to get him into the oversized armor. First Barone’s, then - ‘Without me? Who says I can even do that, teleport another person without going along for the ride?’ Madelyne asks. ‘C’mon, M, who says you cant?’ Nate replies, while Ness has climbed onto the back of G-2, and holds one of her weapons back, telling her that her partner’s diversion mighty have well been enough for this ambush to succeed, if he hadn’t been wary of her, particularly since the moment this battle began, of her exceptionally anxious, electronically-amplified panting down their backs. ‘And the whine of your dangerously overcharging armor!’ he adds as he punches the armored soldier, causing her to fall over.
Madelyne tells Nate to forget about it, that she won’t take a chance with his life like that. ‘But…if I am actually able to do what you believe I can do - then there’s no real reason I can’t just port these GI jokers straight out into the middle of the Atlantic Ocean instead, without me’ Madelyne suggests. She starts to open a portal, but before she can, one of the Strikesquad operatives blasts her with their weapon, sending her careening backwards. Nate flies after her and catches her, explaining that the energy backlash interrupted the teleport, knocking her for a major loop. ‘Both of you from the looks of it’ Nate adds when he sees Ness, who frowns and announces that he would not have recommended such a course of action, knowing what they do of their armor’s apparent ability to repel all psionic, but Madelyne is obviously much more than a mere psionic force.
One of the Strikesquad: Gauntlet operatives then notices a crack. ‘My psi-shielding’s actually…cracked?’ they gasp, before Nate announces that finally he has all the opening he needs. Energy courses around him, and the rest of the boarding house collapses. The male Strikesquad member’s armor is partially destroyed, while Ness tells Nate that he didn’t realize he still had that in him. Emerging from the rubble with Madelyne, Nate replies that he didn’t, either, but he was just so mad at that “Joe-Bot” that he has afraid of what he’d done to Madelyne. ‘Nothing you haven’t done wonders for already, Nate’ Madelyne replies, before pointing out that Barone is done, his armor is compromised beyond repair. ‘But you look even worse now’ she adds. ‘and the phat ladies ain’t sung yet!’ one of the female Strikesquad members shouts, while Scanlon tells Nate that there is nowhere to run anymore, nowhere to hide.
Nate, Madelyne and Ness look around at the destruction of the boarding house, ‘Everything they had here…just gone’ Nate utters. ‘Again. Forever’. Suddenly, the trio look shocked, as they are surrounded by even more members of Strikesquad: Gauntlet, and Ness declares that this is what he was trying to tell Nate what he learned earlier, that Scanlon admitted to answering to a mutli-national pan-governmental agency. ‘They’ve got the whole world on their side…’.