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Bob Harras & Terry Kavanaugh (story), Bob Harras (writer), Mike Deodato (inker), Tom Palmer (inker), John Kalisz (colorist), Bill Oakley (letterer), Matt Idelson (assistant editor), Ralph Macchio (editor), Mark Grunewald (editor-in-chief)
While AIM operatives search for Captain America on an island in the Caribbean, a local boy and his dog soon come across the injured hero. Adding to Captain America’s troubles, Bucky appears before him, apparently alive. Nearby, Hercules, Crystal, Quicksilver, Giant Man and the Black Widow are battling other AIM agents, whom they soon discover to be Adaptoids. As an energy flare radiates from a nearby complex, the Avengers turn their attention to finding Captain America, after they ensure the villagers are safe, and the remaining Adaptoids flee. Hercules demands that the Black Widow inform them what their current mission actually involves, to which she explains that the Cosmic Cube is involved, a dangerous object that is capable of transmuting any human thought into reality, which is why she didn’t want to say anything to the other Avengers. Instantly, the Cube creates a projection of Quicksilver’s foster father, Django Maximoff. Captain America and Bucky confront some Adaptoids, while the Red Skull appears within the complex and confronts Agent Brannex, while, outside the complex, Captain America’s allies Free Spirit and Jack Flag are captured and taken inside the complex where Free Spirit hopes they will learn about this mysterious “Project Resurrection”. Quicksilver tries to cope with seeing his “father” again, while Hercules is furious, as the whole situation reminds him about his beloved Taylor. Captain America’s paralysis returns, but Bucky helps him before he can fall off the edge of a cliff, however, their companion, the young boy, sees Captain America’s other ally, the Falcon, lying motionless at the bottom of the cliff. Before they can do anything to help him, MODOK attacks them.
The small mountainous island of Boca Caliente, somewhere in the Caribbean Sea…on a soft Spring night. A night whose serenity is pierced by the explosion of energy erupting from a mysterious complex built deep in the mountains, overwhelming the sound of pounding feet, and rasping breath. The sound of terror. ‘NO!’ a small boy cries, as he runs from the strange complex, while, above, men in AIM scientist clothing hover above the trees on hover-platforms. Suddenly, a wolf or wild dog growls, and leaps at the boy, pushing him under the security of some shrubs beneath a tall tree. Above, the AIM operatives scan the area, ‘Perimeter patrol zed delta 2 to AIM security central - scans indicate energy levels reaching dangerous levels. Another eruption could prove disastrous to island control’ one of them calls out’, adding that he suggests the human population be sedated to prevent any damaging contamination, before announcing that they are returning to damage control at central complex.
‘They’re gone!’ the boy calls out, while the dog starts licking his face. ‘You saved me, dog! You came out of nowhere and pushed me out of sight! Just like I’m - eh?’ the boy remarks, before noticing some armor lying scattered in the bushes. He rubs his eyes, ‘But who -?’ he begins, before the dog starts growling, getting the boy’s attention. ‘What is it, dog?’ the boy asks, as the dog starts pulling on the boy’s tattered clothing, dragging him to where Captain America a.k.a. Steve Rogers is slumped against a tree. ‘What? This is fantastic! That’s who they’re looking for, dog! Don’t you recognize him? The red, white and blue Avenger - Captain America!’ the boy gasps, wide-eyed.
Suddenly, Cap looks up, ‘Wha -? Bucky?’ he shouts when he sees the boy, before rubbing his head, ‘No - of course you’re not’ he realizes, before apologizing to the boy, telling him that he thought he was someone else. ‘Then maybe it’s time you got some eye glasses, Cap - considering that kid is about ten years younger than I am!’ Bucky remarks as he stands nearby. ‘Cap…what’s wrong?’ Bucky asks, while the dog starts barking at him. ‘Bucky? What in the name of Heaven is going on?’ Cap utters, confused.
Several kilometers away, in Boca Caliente’s only village, all out war rages because the Avengers have landed! Earth’s Mightiest Heroes are currently engaging AIM operatives in combat. ‘Well, Herc - Cap was right about one thing - this place is crawling with AIM agents!’ Dr Henry Pym a.k.a. Giant Man exclaims as he knocks his opponents about, while Hercules, the Prince of Power uses his formidable fighting prowess against the AIM operatives. Crystal, the elemental Inhuman, uses the elements to blast a hover-platform off its course, while one of the AIM operatives tells Giant Man that his observation is obvious. ‘This place has always been ours!’ the operative adds, while firing a machine gun.
Natasha Romanoff a.k.a. the Black Widow leaps into the air, dodging the gunfire heading her way, instead it strikes one of the other AIM agents. At the same time, the mutant speedster, Pietro “Quicksilver” Maximoff punches his fist into one of the operatives, knocking him into another. ‘Not for long, my friend - not for long!’ he promises.Suddenly, a massive BOOM knocks Hercules to the ground, where he sees a strange panel. ‘The ground -’ he begins, before it is suddenly covered up by dirt. Giant Man increases his mass, and declares ‘This encounter has been extremely entertaining, gentlemen - but we have friends to find on this island, and, quite frankly, you’re in the way!’
Giant Man slams his massive fist down amongst the AIM operatives, sending many of them careening backwards. ‘That takes care of this squad!’ Quicksilver calls out as he speeds past several operatives, knocking them over, before calling out to Crystal, who tells her husband that she is fine, where she stands between the AIM agents and several of the villagers, protecting them. The Black Widow announces that they should put an end to this, but as she punches one of the AIM operatives, his helmet comes off, and the Black Widow is surprised by the strange being under the helmet. Quicksilver alerts the Black Widow to another energy flare from the facility up ahead, while Hercules removes the helmet from another operative, and declares that none of the soldiers are human, but some sort of artificial construct. ‘Adaptoids, actually, Hercles’ the Black Widow explains, before examining a device and reporting that the kemplar readings are going off the scale.
Crystal informs the Black Widow that the AIM agents are heading into the jungle, but the Black Widow tells her team to let them go, and suggests they attend to the villagers that were under attack. Earth’s Mightiest Heroes do so, while the Black Widow tries to triangulate Cap’s location from his identi-card transmission. Crystal tells the Black Widow that she knows she is worried about Cap, to which the Black Widow snaps ‘As I would be with any missing Avenger’ before announcing that she thinks she has a bead on him. ‘Let’s move it, Avengers - NOW!’ the Black Widow snaps. She starts to run ahead, when suddenly, ‘Natasha, hold!’ Hercules calls out as he grabs the Black Widow by her arm. Natasha turns to the now shirtless Olympian, his muscles bulging in the moonlight, and he tells the Black Widow that he would follow her into the mouth of Hell itself, but only if she tells them what it is they face.
Hercules reminds the Black Widow that for days now she has been muttering about the kemplar scale, and asks her what in the name of Zeus that it is. The Black Widow tells him that she supposes they deserve to know, and reveals that the kemplar scale is a means of measuring output of a very dangerous object - a Cosmic Cube. ‘The Cube?’ Hercules asks. ‘Yes. The most dangerous weapon ever developed by the AIM’ the Black Widow replies, adding that it is an object capable of transmuting any human thought into reality. She points out that right now, the island is saturated with Cube radiation. ‘The less you knew about the Cube - thought about the Cube - the safer I believed you’d be’ the Black Widow explains, urging her team to guard their thoughts at every moment.
‘Natasha - I can’t believe you didn’t share this information! You’re treating us like - children?’ Quicksilver asks, when suddenly, several wagons and horses appear before them. ‘This camp! Dear God, I know this camp!’ Quicksilver utters, as a bearded man materializes, ‘I would think you would, Pietro Maximoff! Now come and give your father a hug. It has been a long, long time since I’ve seen you!’ Django Maximoff calls out.
Up island, Cap’s head is swimming, he tells himself to try and remember. Sweat pours down his face, and he recalls a woman, a hooded woman who gave him something that cured his paralysis, then he blacked out, and then Bucky appeared. ‘Who are you? Some sort of AIM operative acting out a sick little charade?’ Cap asks, pointing out that Bucky Barnes died a long, long time ago. The boy suggests that they move on, as this is not a safe place to be. ‘Listen to the kid, Cap - you’re not safe at all!’ Bucky shouts as he leaps towards Cap, who raises his shield, which Bucky just bounces off. Cap is surprised by this, as it was as if Bucky had been doing that for years. ‘I trained Bucky in that maneuver! The way he moves - just like Bucky did! It can’t be!’ Cap thinks to himself.
Bucky leaps into the air and knocks two of the AIM operatives off their hover platform, informing Cap that they were sneaking up to ambush him. ‘And I can’t allow that’ Bucky declares. ‘There are others behind you!’ Cap calls out as he tosses his shield, which slices of the second hover platform in half. Bucky lands on the ground and thanks Cap for the assist. ‘I don’t buy you are who you say you are!’ Cap tells Bucky, adding that he is probably nothing more than another fever hallucination, but admits that he is in no condition to turn down help, as he has to find some missing friends. Cap, Bucky, the boy and his dog start to run, before the boy alerts the others to another eruption. He adds that they have been increasing in frequency, that time is running out for the masters.
Within the complex, ‘Project Resurrection status report: human organic specimen has been placed in receptacle’ a voice calls out in the red-lit laboratory. ‘Begin organ-receptacle interface procedure’ the voice continues. ‘Very good’ a man in a suit replies, before turning to one of the Adaptoids and asking what the state is on the Avengers’ incursion. The Adapotoid calls the man in the suit Agent Brannex and reports that all but one AIM operative is accounted for. ‘That is unacceptable’ Agent Brannex declares as he turns and walks away, stating that he wants that off-line agent found immediately. ‘Things are entering a delicate state. We can afford no more surprises’ Brannex adds, walking down a corridor, where the Red Skull suddenly materializes. Wearing a high-tech armor, the Red Skull declares ‘How unfortunate for you, Mr Brannex - that the Red Skull cares nothing for your pathetic little schemes’.
Just outside the complex, two of Captain America’s associates, Free Spirit and Jack Flag find themselves face to face with some startling AIM agents, one of whom materializes a new appearance as the Rhino. ‘Jack - look out!’ Free Spirit calls out to her fellow young hero, but the AIM agent runs into them, knocking them back. ‘You shall not enter the complex, humans!’ the AIM agent tells them. Another agent punches Free Spirit, and tells her that her attempts to interfere with Project Resurrection will not be tolerated. Free Spirit and Jack Flag fall to the ground, and the Adaptoids return to their default form. One of them contacts the security department, reporting that Gamma Epsilon patrol have neutralized the intruders. The other Adaptoid points out that there is no need to continue Adaptoid mode as they bring the intruders in for interrogation. Free Spirit opens her eyes, ‘That pseudo-knockout almost cost me a few teeth!’ she thinks to herself, deciding that she will deal to her - or it - as soon as she finds out what this Project Resurrection is.
Back in the woods, the Avengers have gathered around a campfire, while Django Maximoff asks them why they look frightened. ‘If you are my son’s comrades, you are welcome in my camp’ he tells them. Django puts a hand on the surprised Pietro’s shoulder and remarks that he is glad to see his son has so many friends, adding that when he was a child, he worried about him, as he was so shy. Pietro tells Natasha that he understands now. ‘He is so like my foster father…this is too hard! Too painful!’ Hercules agrees, ‘AYE!’ he shouts as he slams his fist into the campfire, declaring that this power to bring memory to life is cruelty itself. ‘That they feel - that they laugh - is unbearable!’ he adds.
Giant Man, still in his larger form, grabs Hercules and tells him to calm down, as he is not helping matters. Hercules waves his fists about, while Black Widow tells him that she knows this is unnerving for him, as it reminds him of Taylor. ‘I’m truly sorry’ the Black Widow adds, explaining that is why she didn’t want to tell them too much about the Cube. Natasha begs Hercules for his sake, for all of their sakes, that he doesn’t think too much about Taylor. Quicksilver turns to Crystal and tells her that he understands Hercules’s pain, as the Cube construct is so real. ‘I could almost believe he was Django, alive again’ Quicksilver explains. Django hears this, his eyes two different colors, and he remarks ‘There is an old saying, my son - be careful what you wish for’.
Up island, ‘So, who’s this Falcon guy we’re looking for, Cap? A member of the Invaders?’ Bucky asks as he runs alongside the boy and his dog. ‘Not really’ Cap replies, before Bucky asks him if he is okay, as he doesn’t look good. Cap admits that he is feeling a little weak, and as they run up a hillside, he suddenly stumbles backwards, wondering if the serum is wearing off - but before Cap falls off the cliff, a hand reaches down and grabs him. ‘Hold on, partner! I’ve got you!’ Bucky calls out. ‘Y-you are real?’ Cap asks, as he regains his footing, and is pulled up to safety. ‘As real as needed’ Bucky replies, while the boy stands on the edge of the cliff, overlooking some rocks at the water’s edge below, and tells Captain America to look, as he thinks they have found his friend. ‘But I don’t think you’ll be pleased’ he adds. ‘Falcon!’ Cap shouts as he sees Sam Wilson sprawled out, motionless on the rocks below, an Adaptoid underneath him.
Suddenly, there is a mighty noise, and Cap, Bucky, the boy and his dog are blown into the air. ‘And so it ends, Captain America!’ a voice calls out, as a strange-looking being with a large head, surrounded but a lot of armor and weapons floats in the air. ‘You came to this island to stop AIM, but you could not stop Resurrection - for MODOK lives again!’
Black Widow, Captain America, Crystal, Giant Man, Hercules, Quicksilver (all Avengers)Falcon (inactive Avenger)
Free Spirit & Jack Flag
Boy and his dogAgent BrannexVillagersAIM Adaptoids
This issue follows Captain America (1st series) #440 and continues in Captain America (1st series) #441.
Captain America’s paralysis was cured by Superia in Captain America (1st series) #440.
Hercules’s girlfriend, Taylor Madison, was revealed to be a fantasy created by Hera in Avengers (1st series) #384 - not #385 as the footnote in the comic states.