“Tony!” Luke Cage spat accusingly. “What the hell’s going on here?”
“I don’t have any idea what you mean, Luke,” Tony said smoothly. “Besides, if you stay in a man’s home, I doubt you’d want to insult him.”
“You know what I’m talking about,” Luke said. “I wanna know why the hell Rick Jones and Phil Urich are in S.H.I.E.L.D. custody.”
“Oh, that’s not obvious?” Tony asked. “They instigated the attack that let to the loss of hundreds of lives! Why shouldn’t they be in prison?”
“This is part of the States just wanting to find someone to blame—they were trying to help that kid, not hurt him!” Luke exclaimed.
“That’s for the courts to decide,” Tony said. “I’m sorry, Luke. You and I don’t see eye-to-eye on either of the controversies at hand right now. If you keep acting the way you’ve been acting, I’m afraid I’m going to have to ask you to leave.”
“Leave what? Your high-and-mighty tower?” Luke asked sarcastically.
“No, I’m asking you to leave the Avengers,” Tony said. “My decision is final.”
Luke looked at Jessica Drew, his fellow Avenger Spider-Woman. “I told you so,” he said, and stomped out of the room to collect his things.
A group of colorful-looking people approached the front desk. The receptionist, a spectacled man in his mid-twenties, looked at them and raised his eyebrows as he tapped his foot on the panic button under his desk.
“I…uh…don’t suppose you have an appointment?” he asked.
“We have an appointment all right,” said Speedball. “We’re Captain America’s parole officers.”
Before that could register in the receptionist’s mind, Speedball rocketed forward, catching the man in the jaw with his fist. He was out cold before anyone knew any better.
“Where’s Captain America being held?” asked Night Thrasher. “We have to know that before we get any further.”
Speedball pored over the map on the receptionist’s desk. “How about here? Max security, sounds like Captain America.”
“I don’t know who you are,” said a new voice on the scene, “but you do realize that what you’re doing gets you a nice, hefty sentence in this place?”
The New Warriors turned to see a S.H.I.E.L.D. squadron standing at the entrance to the Raft’s main holding bay. There were ten of them, armed with all sorts of weaponry.
“This should be fun,” Namorita said with a laugh. They hadn’t had a true fight in ages.
Microbe smirked. “Their E. coli in their intestines started acting up about five minutes ago, Namorita. They aren’t exactly in any position to fight. Believe me, they’ll start puking if you don’t go ahead and knock ‘em out.”
Agent Charlie Hogan was the leader of the S.H.I.E.L.D. squadron and he knew that Microbe was right. His stomach was beginning to act up, and he was already on the verge of puking. Still, they couldn’t give up, not with the threat of so many super-powered villains being released by this group.
Namorita flew into them like a bowling ball and all ten agents went down like ten pins in a strike. They were all out for good. “Let’s go,” she beckoned.
The hallway to the Maximum Security prisoners was long. It was built that way on purpose, to make a villain’s escape path more decided in case any agents were left standing to try to prevent the escape.
The only warrior that hadn’t spoken yet was Alex Power, going by his old codename of Zero-G. He was wondering what his younger siblings would think and also couldn’t help but wonder if he was doing the right thing. Were they in any danger while he was gone?
“We’re here!” Speedball shouted. “Get ready for a bunch of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents to start crawling up our butts!”
Night Thrasher immediately headed straight for Captain America’s cell. At first, he tried to dial the code, but thought better of it and had Namorita yank the door off its hinges. The New Warriors’ main objective was done. Captain America was free.
“A little help here?” Speedball asked. He and Microbe were facing off against a new squad of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents coming through the door. Alex zapped them with a rainbow of light, using his deceased sister’s powers.
Then, before he knew what he was doing, Alex was at the cell of his sister’s murderer. The boy couldn’t have been older than sixteen, for certain, and Alex was pretty sure he may have even been younger. Seeing his sad look, Alex realized now that the entire thing was a big accident. It was no one’s fault.
“Namorita, free this guy, too,” Alex said, and the Atlantean woman ripped the door from the wall. Alex flew in and unclipped the boy from his straightjacket.
The boy was drowsy from the drugs they had him on to dampen his powers. At least, that was Alex’s excuse for the boy’s next (tactless) comment.
“What’s with the rainbow?” he asked. “Are you some kind of fruit?”
“No,” Alex said grimly. “These were my sister’s powers before she died.” That shut up the boy, known as Banger for his exploding powers.
“They’re pushing through!” Speedball warned. “We need another way out!”
“Free the guy in the last cell,” Captain America ordered. “Director Hill wouldn’t tell me anything about him, so I guarantee you he’s not here on legitimate reasons.”
Namorita once again pulled the door from the wall and gasped. It was Darkhawk, another former New Warrior.
“You survived?” she asked in amazement.
Chris looked up grimly. “I shouldn’t have.”
“We have to get out of here,” she whispered. “We need to go.”
“You made a bad move coming in here if you wanted to try that,” Chris said solemnly. Namorita looked down at her chest and saw a round of five tranquilizer darts in her chest.
Namorita moaned as she crumpled to the ground, unmoving.
“We have to go, right NOW!” shouted Speedball. Once again, he was calling the orders. Night Thrasher wasn’t too happy about that, especially since he was the one who had assembled the entire team, but there was nothing he could do.
“Kid! Banger or whatever your name is,” Captain America said. “Look, I need you to blow us a hole out of here.”
“Will do,” said Banger, throwing a ball of energy at the ceiling. When it contacted the roof, the ball exploded, revealing open sky.
“Now what?” asked Speedball. “I think they got Namorita, so we don’t have a flier!”
“We have me,” Alex said. Then he used his powers in a way he’d never tried before. He lightened everyone by making them and himself less dense.
“Everyone, grab onto me!” he shouted. They all got a hand on him, and he used his sister’s powers to rocket out of the Raft.
Back inside the Raft…
When the smoke cleared, Maria Hill examined the situation. She smiled when she saw Namorita collapsed in Darkhawk’s cell.
“Interesting,” she thought aloud. “Perhaps losing our dear Captain wasn’t so bad at all.”
“They got the kid, too,” said Agent Brent Jackson, formerly of Weapon X.
“A minor loss,” said Hill. “Captain America has bought himself a lot of trouble, now.”
New Warriors’ Reality Show HQ…
“So, uh, Cap,” said Speedball reverently, “have you got any place to hide?”
“I can think of a few,” said Captain America solemnly. He looked at Alex Power. “You lost a sister, right?”
“I want you to take this kid, get your family, and get out of wherever you’re at right now. I want you to treat the kid like he’s part of your family. When I need you, I’ll get in touch. Go now,” Captain America ordered.
Alex listened to Captain America and grabbed hold of Banger by the shoulder before the two walked out of the room. Things were going to be a bit strange when he got home…
“What do you want us to do?” asked Night Thrasher. He didn’t want Speedball to speak up and suck up to Captain America more than he already had.
“I want you to use your time-slot to air the truth about what happened,” Captain America said. “We’ll find a way to get your teammate back, and we’ll get Darkhawk out of there, too. I’m going to go now, but listen to me now. After you’ve filmed the show for tonight, get out of here. The three of you are fugitives now, just like me. Run and hide, because heaven knows they’re sending someone after you guys as we speak.”
“Right, Captain America, sir,” Speedball said. “We’ll get right on it.”
“As for me,” Cap said, “I’m going to go get someone who now has a very good reason for joining this fight.”
Stark Tower, Tony Stark’s private quarters…
“Of course, Mr. President,” said Tony. “We’ll do everything in our power to quell these rumors.”
“Well, his escape sure isn’t a rumor!” said the president angrily.
“Oh, don’t worry,” said Iron Man, looking at Reed Richards and Hank Pym behind him. “We’ll do everything within our power to bring him in. Justice will be served, I assure you.”
“It better be,” said the president. “I’ve relied on you so-called heroes too often…and you’ve fallen through.”
“Believe me, sir,” said Tony. “This time, we won’t.”
Office of Jen Walters, Lawyer…
“Ms. Walters, what is your client feeling right now?” asked a reporter, jamming a microphone in She-Hulk’s face.
“I am not at the liberty to speak for my client,” said She-Hulk, shoving the mike away.
“Is it true that you are representing both Rick Jones and Phil Urich?” asked another nosy reporter.
“That is true, and I’d like to thank you for wasting your question. That news was on CNN an hour ago,” She-Hulk said. She could feel some passive-aggression building in her.
“Ms. Walters! Ms. Walters!” shouted another reporter in back. Jen groaned. This was going to be a living nightmare.
“Excuse me, Miss Frost?” asked one of the students. It was Hisako.
“What do you want?” Emma asked, rather unhappy with the situation as a whole. She let herself vent somewhat on Hisako.
“Well, this whole Super-Hero Registration Act…is it going to affect us?” Hisako asked.
“Yeah, do we have to become agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. just because we have powers?” asked another student. This was Ben Hamill, codenamed Match. His flaming head lit the walls in a flickering glare.
“If some of the faculty had their wishes,” Emma said, seething at the thought, “then yes, you would be forced. However, as headmistress, I will not let anything happen in that regard, I assure you.”
The students would never have said it aloud, but it made them feel better knowing that Emma Frost was indeed on their side.
New York City, sector formerly known as “Mutant Town”…
Ismael Ortega wandered the streets on foot. It was the best way to patrol this sector now that there were no longer mutants around. He missed when his wife, Armena, had been a mutant. It had helped keep some sense of order in their lives.
There were hardly any troubles, though, with the mutants gone. Poor Gregor Smerdyakov had been depowered and was able to move freely rather than being rooted to the spot as a living mutant tree. Others, too, felt the pain of being mutants go away. Telepaths no longer had to deal with the static of others’ thoughts. Weather manipulators didn’t have to worry about being overwhelmed by a storm.
Things were better now. But still, if he could give Armena her powers back, Ismael would stop at nothing to do so. That was half the reason he was out. There were rumors going around that a man had the power to restore mutants to the way they were.
Ismael heard whimpering around the corner. He peeked down the alleyway to see a man in a large coat and hat sitting there, weeping.
“All my fault,” he muttered in his nightmare. “All my fault…” The man’s hands were filled with shards of glass or something of that sort.
“You,” Ismael said, waking the man from his nightmare. “I need you to come see my wife. She was a mutant. I need her to have her powers back. Please.”
The man formerly known as Quicksilver stood up. “Take me to her,” he whispered.
That night, 8:00 P.M.…
“I know you guys were expecting us to fight some lame, bush-league super-villain, right?” asked Speedball to the crowd he couldn’t see. “Well, that’s because we had a bit of an adventure today.”
Night Thrasher stepped forward. “Today, a Warrior came to us with big news. He had just seen Captain America being imprisoned in the Raft. Yes, that’s right. S.H.I.E.L.D. stuck the one and only Captain America in prison for no reason whatsoever.”
“Of course, we had to do something about it,” said Microbe. “We couldn’t just let them throw the emblem of freedom in prison just because he’s against registering.”
Speedball nodded. “We went down to the Raft and busted him out. Yeah, we know that jailbreak is pretty much a felony in this country. But you know what? That didn’t matter because a man that pretty much everyone looks up to was behind bars.”
Night Thrasher spoke again. “When the New Warriors got down there, we freed Captain America. Even worse, though, we found out something, at the cost of one of our own, that the government plans on keeping from us. Someone we’re supposed to believe is dead, isn’t. Ladies and gentlemen, the man known only as—”
The screen changed to a message reading, “Sorry, we are experiencing technical difficulties.”
By the time the authorities arrived at the television station, the New Warriors were hundreds of miles away.
Xavier Institute, O*N*E camp…
“We will not register!” Erg shouted. “We will not be bound to this corrupt organization!”
“RIGHT!” shouted the crowd of mutants.
“We will fight this alongside the X-Men! We will not turn them down in this dire time!” Erg continued.
The rally continued like this for some time. Tracy Skylark looked down on it from her O*N*E Sentinel.
“Lex, should we stop this thing?” she wondered.
“No,” said Alexander Lexington, stationed in his own Sentinel. “Heck, if I still had powers…I’d be right down there with them.”
“Watch what you’re saying,” said Colonel Miguel Reyes from the O*N*E headquarters. “We don’t want to have to write you up on treason.”
“Treason to what?” asked Lex. “Treason to this Registration Act?”
“No,” said Reyes. “But you know us government officials. We’ll come up with something.”
Lex kept his mouth shut. Somehow, he knew Reyes wasn’t lying a bit.
Ismael and Armena had just spent a very happy time rejoicing. As soon as Armena felt her powers come back tenfold, she broke down in tears.
“I’m whole again!” she shouted, jumping into Ismael’s arms. The white-haired stranger slipped out of the house in the joyous celebration.
“Mama!” shouted Esteban Ortega. “You have your powers back?”
“Come to me, baby!” shouted Armena, filled with joy. “We’re going to have a fiesta tonight!”
Later on, as the food and music died down between the three family members, there was a knock at the door.
“Sorry, Armena,” said Ismael. “It’s likely that duty calls. I’ll get it.”
Ismael was surprised to see Jamie Madrox, leader of X-Factor Investigations, standing right there on his doorstep. He was flanked by the now-powerless Rictor and the powered Monet.
“D’you mind if I come in?” he asked. “It’s a bit chilly out here, and, well, I’m looking for somebody that might have been here tonight.”
“You’re looking for the miracle man?” asked Armena from the kitchen. “He came back! He made me whole again!”
“So it’s true?” Rictor asked shakily. “He can give back powers?”
“Yes, it’s true!” Ismael said. “I swear, you’ll do nothing to him. If any harm comes to this miracle worker, then I swear that you will be dealing with me.”
“Believe me,” said Jamie. “All we want to do is talk to him about certain recent history events…”
Defunct oil platform, off the coast of Texas…
“Why are we meeting here, Captain?” asked Prince Namor of Atlantis.
“Things have changed,” said Captain America. “There was a big, hero-related incident that caused a lot of deaths. They’re thinking about registering us now.”
“Oh, I heard about all of that,” Namor said. “Really, it doesn’t bother me all that much. They won’t be coming to my kingdom.”
“It’s funny you should mention that,” said Captain America.
Namor laughed. “Is this some ploy? Tell me, Captain, what news do you have that I do not?”
“Maybe they didn’t mean to bring the fight to you,” said Captain America. “But they did.”
“How?” Namor demanded. “What has happened.”
“They’ve captured your cousin, Namorita. She was part of the group rescuing me from unlawful confinement. They’ll hold her there probably until the world stops holding their breath, which could actually be years from now,” Captain America said.
Namor clenched his fists and gritted his teeth. “Whether or not humanity wished for the Prince of Atlantis’ wrath, they will have it now. I will free my blood, and then I will avenge her time spent in prison. Your government has angered me, and it is obvious that the last time I voiced it wasn’t enough. My wrath is going to be their pain…”
The End…For Now