Part I: Feet First
Base of Captain America’s Secret Avengers
“What the…?!” shouted about ten voices at the same time. All eyes were focused on the television screen as yet another blow came from Iron Man’s side. After last week’s Darkhawk scandal, this was a harder blow for the Secret Avengers to take.
“My name is Peter Parker, and I’ve been Spider-Man since I was fifteen years old,” Spider-Man had just said on-screen, removing his mask in front of the world. It was clear to Captain America—Spider-Man was with Tony.
“Told you he was a bad guy,” said Nico Minoru, one of the Runaways, to Victor Mancha. She was referring to when she had used her powers to put Spider-Man out of action weeks before. Victor merely grimaced in distaste for the situation.
Captain America decided to take charge of the situation before the heroes who felt betrayed started organizing a lynch mob. “Everybody calm down!” Cap shouted. In respect and reverence, the talking ceased and all attention was focused on Cap.
“Look, I know this is bad. I know that we’re tired of being cooped up here. We have loved ones we’re worried about. There are a lot of people out there that I’m worried about, and there is a lot of recruiting to do. We don’t know what Iron Man and his Avengers have up their sleeves. That’s why we can’t let stuff like this upset us. We have to stand strong for the future,” Captain America said.
“We have to stand strong to make sure we even have a future,” he added ominously.
“Hello, Mrs. Bradley?” asked the uniformed agent at the door. “We understand that there are currently two super-powered individuals at this residency?”
Faith, wife to Isaiah Bradley (who you might know as the black Captain America) merely shook her head. “I’m sorry, sir. I haven’t the faintest idea what you’re talking about.”
The agent was not amused. “Cut the crap, lady. We just need your hubbie and grandkid to sign the papers and we’re done. Anything else is against the frigging law, got it?”
“Do not take that tone with me, young man,” said Faith sternly. “If you’ll give me a moment, I’ll return with my husband.” What the man did not know was that Faith had hit the panic button as soon as she saw the man at the door.
“Let’s go!” Eli urged her, beckoning at her from the master bedroom. Not a minute after the panic button had been hit, Cloak had teleported from the secret base into the bedroom, where Isaiah and Eli had fled as soon as the doorbell rang.
Faith rushed into the room, slammed the door, and let Cloak take them away.
Minutes later, the agent, along with five others, busted in the front door. They ransacked the house, searching for any hiding place. Finally, they were forced to give up.
“We have two supers fleeing,” he said into his radio. “Based on the evidence, I’m sorry to say—and you can quote me on this—but damn, Cap got another two.”
Base of the Secret Avengers
Welcome to the War Council.
Four men were in one dark room, the only soundproof room in the entire place. These four were the elite, the ones who were expected to plan the entire back-strike.
“You know how this all started, right?” asked Nick Fury, puffing away heavily on one of his trademark cigars. “This started because S.H.I.E.L.D. went bad. That’s when things went downhill.”
“So what do you want me to do about it?” Captain America asked. “We’re pressed for time, and there aren’t enough of us to launch an all-out assault.”
“If you ask me,” said Cable, “this didn’t start at S.H.I.E.L.D. This started when an Avenger went bad. People thought they couldn’t trust in their heroes anymore. Stamford proved that when those Excelsior idiots waltzed in without any authority and tried to snag a kid who blew things up.”
Cap made a mental note in his head of another thing on his to-do list. “Things went downhill from there, then. S.H.I.E.L.D. went to hell, and then the mutants were pared down to two-hundred.”
“Damn, looks like things did start when your Witch went bad,” Fury said.
“Wait—what do you mean? You know what happened?” Cap asked.
Fury gave a sideways grin. “Anything S.H.I.E.L.D. knows comes through here right away. Your Scarlet Witch took out all of these mutants.”
That brought a gasp from Cable and the fourth man in the room, a member of Cable’s old team—Six Pack. His name was George Washington Bridge.
“One of our own was responsible for this?” Cable asked. “Looks like she betrayed everything she was a part of. First the Avengers, now the mutant race.”
“That’s not the point,” Fury said. “She’s the only one with the power to undo something like this. Stark’s gotta know that. That’s why we gotta find her before they do.”
“Then what?” Cap asked.
Fury gave another grin. “Then me and Bridge here take back S.H.I.E.L.D., Captain.”
Cap sighed. “Gentlemen, we have work to do.”
“Here’s the deal,” Cap said, speaking once again to the whole of the assembled heroes. “Our forces are about to be stretched thin. First off, I want Patriot to take the Runaways and find a way to collect the rest of the Young Avengers. If your encounter today was any inclination, we have to be sure they’re being cracked down on.
“Luke Cage, Falcon, and Daredevil will be leading a rescue-op on Jewel and Luke’s daughter. We have to assume that it’s going to be a trap, though, so don’t take any chances. I have someone there watching over her, but frankly, I don’t know if he’s enough right now,” Cap continued.
“I’ll be taking a strike force on a classified mission. Goliath, Cloak, and Dagger will be holding down the fort here while our civilians remain here as well. Are there any questions?” No one spoke up. “Well, if that’s all, I’d like for all those who I mentioned will be leaving to come with me.”
Soon, after each of the three groups was debriefed, they were on their way in their first missions as the Secret Avengers.
“What’s going on, Reed?” asked Sue Richards, the Invisible Woman. “Why’d you take us here?”
“I tracked the signature from the energy that the hammer radiates,” Reed said, as though the science behind his gizmo was simple. He and the other members of the Fantastic Four rode in the Fantasticar through the air, bundled in parkas against the bite of the North Pole wind.
“How close are we?” grunted Ben Grimm, the ever-lovin’, blue-eyed Thing.
“I think we’re here,” said Reed. The family of four stepped out of the Fantasticar and began to search for Thor’s hammer.
After all they’d been through, the holder of the hammer should not have been a surprise.
Thor stood in the snow, looking up at the clear sky, and then down across the snow again, straight at the family of four.
“I, son of Odin, have returned.”
“I’ll be just a second in there,” Patriot told the Runaways. “This Young Avenger doesn’t have any super-powers. She’s just really good with arrows. There’s not really a chance of this being a trap.” In civilian clothes, he walked off toward the house.
“Famous last words,” muttered Chase Stein darkly. He hadn’t been the same since his girlfriend had been killed the month before. “Why do we have to take orders from one of Cap’s five tokens anyway?”
“You don’t mean that, Chase,” said Karolina. “He’s nice, and he’s in the same deal we are. We should just work together already.”
“He hasn’t been through anything like we have,” Chase stated, but he let it drop.
Eli walked around the side of the house, hoping against hope that Kate’s room was on the ground floor. He got lucky. Her room was at the ground floor around the back of the house. He could only hope her father wasn’t home or hadn’t seen him.
Reaching over the hedges, Eli knocked on the window. Kate looked up in surprise. She said something, then walked cautiously over to the window.
“Kate, it’s me,” Eli whispered. Kate looked down in the bushes in shock.
“Cassie’s in here,” she whispered back. “Her step-dad tried to force her to sign up.”
“Can you two get out of there?” Eli asked. “I’m on a mission, and I need all the help I can get.”
“Two minutes,” Kate whispered.
She would hold true to that.
“Do you know how sneaky this feels?” asked Angel, tucking his wings in tightly. The darkened floor of the Fantastic Four’s headquarters had a creepy aura in the night.
“Well, it isn’t exactly legal,” Emma Frost said quietly in return. Just the day before, Bishop had gone on television, basically to tell every mutant to line up on Xavier’s back lawn for the locator chip. If the 198 hadn’t been on the backyard already, she’d have sworn that concentration camps were next.
“Oh, dear. What is poor Scott going to think when he finds out?” asked Hank McCoy, the Beast.
“He’ll be upset,” Emma said simply. “But this is going to be a weight off the X-Men’s shoulders. My only qualm is against making him go back a hero. A martyr.”
“He won’t be either of those,” assured Iceman. He was the last of the four X-Men who had decided to break into the Baxter Building.
“What are you looking for, anyway?” asked the Angel, looking Emma’s direction.
Emma scoffed. “What do the Fantastic Four have that no one else save Doom has?”
“Oh, my stars and garters,” said Beast. “We’re stealing their time machine?”