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Kurt Busiek (Writer), Stuart Immonen and Wade Von Grawbadger (Penciler), Al Vey (Inker), Tom Smith (Colors), RS & COMICRAFT (Letters), Tom Brevoort (Editor), Bob Harras (Editor in Chief)
Captain America decides to put together a temporary team of Avengers to undergo a stealth mission in the Triune Understanding’s New York base, in order to find incriminating evidence against them. First, he enlists Jarvis’ sponsor child, Silverclaw, due to her shape-shifting powers. Next, he contacts Warbird, who is the middle of a court appearance after getting drunk and crippling a passenger plane, because of her espionage skills. Finally, Cap contacts Steve Lang, the Ant-Man, because of how he helped the Avengers in the past. Captain America leads the team into the Triune headquarters, along with a suspicious and investigating Captain Marvel; though Silverclaw is shocked Cap would break and enter into private property. Upon finding some very incriminating evidence, which would also be used as a weapon, Captain America orders the team to destroy it, which makes the team realize they are not being led by the real Captain America. The fake reveals himself to be the Taskmaster, hired by the Triunes to destroy the Triune building and frame the Avengers. Taskmaster is eventually defeated by the team, but they are defeated by Lord Templar, who then destroys the entire skyscraper, leaving the “Avengers” to blame. Tremont, who arrives surprisingly fast from Hawaii, arrives on the scene with Triathlon, cops and reporters. Tremont keeps on referring to the group as Avengers, which troubles Triathlon among other things. Suddenly, the reporters get a call and discover that practically the whole entire Avengers line-up is leaving, leaving the rag-tag “Avengers” to wonder how much they hurt their allies.
In her dorm room at Empire State University, Maria de Guadalupe Santiago, a.k.a Silverclaw, watches television in disbelief. On the news is a report on how Captain America has just quit the Avengers, as seen on video as he leaves the mansion with no comment for the press. However, though this is still a rumor, if it is true then things may be getting worse for the Avengers, who have been having many troubles recently. The team has been accused of racism, incompetence and other charges, which recently led Thor to assault the media. Many now wonder if the government needs to reign in the Avengers, who may be out of control.
Silverclaw wonders how the reporter could say such things about the Avengers, who fight for everyone’s safety. Lupe’s roommate, a young girl who also happens to be wearing a Triune Understanding t-shirt, tells Lupe that she is just saying that because the Avengers’ butler, Jarvis, is her sponsor. From what she hears, the Avengers cannot keep the bad guys locked up and they might actually be working with Magneto. Quicksilver is an Avenger and he is aligned with Magneto, so it may be true. Lupe refuses to her and tells her roommate that she does not know the Avengers. They are not like that.
There is a knock on the door and Lupe’s roommate reminds her that it is her turn to open it, unless of course she wants to keep on complaining. Lupe gets the door and a tall man asks for Maria Santiago. Lupe accepts the note that he has, which according to him was from some blonde guy who paid him twenty dollars to deliver it. Lupe is confused, as she opens the note. She does not know any blonde guy but, upon reading the note, she understands.
In a federal court near Foley Square, a panel of judges is astounded at the turn of recent events. One of the judges tells Colonel Carol Danvers, a.k.a. Warbird, that her attorney, Foggy Nelson, told them that she had information regarding the crippling of ChampionAir Flight 619, but his was more than they expected. Carol admits that she is the super heroine Warbird and that she downed Flight 619. She was drunk and angered after an imagined slight. She attacked Iron Man and drop-kicked him into the plane’s wing. She didn’t even know that the plane was there and, though everyone was saved and no one was hurt, that isn’t the point. She was drunk and she did it. She regrets what she did and, with Iron Man’s help, she has joined Alcoholics Anonymous and recently received her 30-day sobriety chip. Warbird gets up and tells the tribunal that she is ready for her punishment. If it is financial restitution, she will pay; if she is bought up on criminal charges, she will serve her time.
Foggy Nelson gets up and points out that Carol turned herself in when there was no suspicion on her. One of the judges tells Nelson that she knows and tells him not to ruin Danver’s character by qualifying her statement. The judge admits that the panel will have to take some time to discuss this at length. Suddenly, an attendant comes up to the judge with a note. The judge looks at the name on the note and calls Carol forward as there is a note for her, or at least for “Warbird – Eyes Only.” Carol takes the note, reads it and begins to think. The tribunal leaves, but the female judge tells Carol not to leave town until the panel has reached a decision, but Carol is lost in thought.
Elsewhere, at Herman Melville Elementary School in Sayville, Long Island, a little girl runs out excited as school ends and into the arms of her father, Scott Lang, an electrician, single father, ex-con and the astonishing Ant-Man. Scott picks up his daughter and asks how she is. Cassie is ecstatic, because she knows that they are going to Chuck E. Cheese tonight, like he promised. Of course he remembers, says Scott, as he carries his little girl to his car. He then notices a note tucked under his windshield wiper. He reads the note and immediately Cassie asks if he is going to cancel their plans. Scott assures her that he won’t, but afterwards he is going to see if Mrs. Magruder can sit for her. Cassie just has to promise not to terrorize her, because daddy has some work to do. Scott takes one more look at the note, which instructs him to meet atop the Brooklyn Bridge at midnight. Instead of a signature, there is a little illustration of a shield with a large star in the middle, the emblem of Captain America!
At midnight, Silverclaw flies through the air as a bird and descends atop the Brooklyn Bridge, as instructed. She returns back to human form and sees Warbird. Confused, she tells the woman that she is not Captain America. Warbird points out that Silverclaw isn’t either, but is able to deduce the young girl’s identity from the news. Carol introduces herself as Ant-Man flies by on a queen ant. Before he lets the women speak, he tells them that he is not Hank Pym. Warbird realizes that the man is Scott Lang.
Silverclaw wonders where Cap is when, suddenly, a jet flies overhead and Captain America descends on a ladder. He tells the group that he is glad they arrived, for he has enlisted them on a crucial Avengers mission. Silverclaw is confused yet again and questions Captain America’s recent separation from the Avengers. Cap explains to the group that it was a cover story to make the Triune Understanding think he was gone. The spiritual group has secrets and, when the team tried to investigate, the Triunes smeared them in the media. It has to stop, but the Avengers cannot fight them openly. Ant-Man tells Cap that he will follow him anywhere, but he isn’t an Avenger, so why did Cap choose them?
Cap explains that this is a stealth mission and the three of them have all the skills he needs. Warbird’s espionage background, Silverclaw’s shape-shifting abilities are an advantage and Cap is sure that Ant-Man remembers the first time he aided the Avengers. Ant-Man does. He was called to help free the Wasp from the Insane Asylum. In truth the Asylum was a front for the Taskmaster’s school. It was a thrill to fight the Avengers. Ant-Man finishes reminiscing and again agrees to help Cap. Suddenly, a voice from above asks if there is room for one more. Everyone looks up as Captain Marvel descends from the sky. Captain Marvel explains that he got a cosmic-awareness flash while in Los Angeles so he thought he would come here. Cap welcomes Marvel to the team, as the rest of the make-shift Avengers climb the ladder into the jet.
Cap turns to the ship when, suddenly, Marvel realizes that something isn’t right. A voice tells him not to ruin anything and Marvel questions Rick Jones as to why not. In his mind, Marvel’s host reminds him that his cosmic-awareness has been on the fritz recently and that he has been fighting creatures that don’t even exist. Rick may be molecularly bound to Marvel, but as long as he is on the ride he won’t allow Marvel to embarrass him in front of Captain America. Captain Marvel reluctantly agrees, but warns Rick of the consequences if he is right.
In Hawaii, Jonathan Tremont basks in the sunlight and the loud applause that he receives. Tremont stands in front of a crowd of hundreds that he just delivered a speech to on the Triune Understanding tenets. He waves the crowd goodbye as he tells the group that he must now travel to other cities and countries. He tells his assistant, Eduardo, that the rally went well. Eduardo agrees and informs Tremont that they collected three-quarters of a million dollars in donations and their book and tape sales sky rocketed. Uninterested, Tremont boards the jet and tells Eduardo he will check the figures later. He is more interested in the crowd, for their strength and belief was much stronger today. Eduardo has no idea how rewarding it was. Tremont suddenly falls from pain. As the his attendants rush to him, Tremont explains to Eduardo that it is so hard to act so human when he has absorbed so much from those sheep who follow them.
Back in Manhattan, the team reaches the New York headquarters of the Triune Understanding. Warbird is impressed over how a new group like the Triunes could amass the support and money to build a New York skyscraper so quickly. Cap agrees that the Triunes have been doing well, but they are going to throw a monkey wrench into their plans. Ant-Man shrinks and crawls through a vent on the roof. He bypasses the alarms and then opens the rooftop door. Cap compliments Ant-Man on his work and leads the Avengers in. Silverclaw is hesitant, however, and tells Warbird that this is private property. They cannot just walk in. Warbird tells her that it is okay. Sometimes they have to play dirty to come out right. It is the first rule of counter-intelligence. The others proceed, but Silverclaw pauses for a moment. She swallows hard and reluctantly follows.
In the room the Avengers are met with a giant glowing construct. Cap explains that it is a will-suppressor, which can throw an invisible web over New York City and capture every person’s mind, turning them into Triune slaves. According to intelligence, it is to go off during rush hour the next day. However, the Triune’s will be disappointed, says Cap maniacally, since the Avengers are going to destroy it.
In Tremont’s jet, Tremont sits in the air inside a pyramid of energy. He uses his mental powers to contact his associate Michealson and asks about their latest operational report. One of the sides of the pyramid displays the face of Michealson, who reports that their number of recruits is on the rise, especially among minorities and those who do not trust the Avengers. However, that will fade since the news is still bashing the Avengers, but with no mention of the Triune. Not discouraged, Tremont smiles and tells Michealson that he thinks that will change soon and then asks about their New York operation.
At the Triune New York base, the stealth-squad Avengers look at Captain America puzzled, as Warbird asks him if he just said that they are going to destroy the device. Cap confirms this. They must destroy it before they can activate it. Warbird asks if they should not confiscate it to use as evidence. Ant-Man offers to dismantle it and find the key components. Suddenly, Captain Marvel is hit by another cosmic-awareness, telling him that something is wrong. Angered, Cap tells the team that they cannot risk it, for the stakes are too high. Silverclaw screams at Cap that he is a fake. He had them break into a private building and destroy evidence that could help the Avengers. He is not the man that Jarvis told her about, he is not Captain America!
Warbird agrees, but wonders how the imposter knew of her espionage background. Marvel mumbles to Rick that he told him so. Ant-Man hears this and is confused. “Cap” signs and tells the group that “Miss Chiquita Banana” scores one point. He hopes it would not come to this, but he guesses it is time the group met his Split-Second Squad. “Cap” snaps his fingers and, on cue, five men and women dressed in all black descend from the ceiling on invisible skimmers. “Cap” introduces them as his best students and with that info-nugget he will drop his holo-disguise and reveal his true identity as…the Taskmaster!
Taskmaster calls one of his lackeys, Maurice, to give him his arrows, quiver and sword, which the man does. Taskmaster predicts that the group must be wondering why he, who usually stays behind scenes, is out in the open like this. He reveals that the Triunes put in an order for so many stooges and that made it contingent on him doing this one job that he couldn’t refuse the offer. He was supposed to trick the four of them to destroy the machine but, since things went sour, he will have to beat them unconscious and destroy it himself, leaving them four to blame. Taskmaster then sends his Split-Second Squad to take down the Avengers.
The Avengers meet the Squad in battle, but Warbird finds that they are too fast to hit. Captain Marvel also misses, but Ant-Man zaps one in the face. Silverclaw morphs into a puma and goes after Taskmaster, who easily evades her, while shooting some arrows at Marvel and Warbird, who evade the arrows but are knocked by the explosives attached to them. Taskmaster then tells Silverclaw that she has guts taking him by herself but, in case she never heard, he has photographic reflexes, which means he can copy anyone’s moves. That is how he was able to pass off being Captain America and that is how he is going to beat them all. Taskmaster throws his shield and then kicks Silverclaw right in the face.
Back in Tremont’s plane, Jonathan watches the battle occurring in New York on one of the pyramid faces. It was not how he intended, but he is still pleased nonetheless. He turns to face another side as the image of Triathlon appears. Tremont tells the man that there is trouble and that he wants him at their New York offices immediately. Tremont will be there shortly. Triathlon says ok, but asks how Tremont will get to New York so fast from Hawaii. Tremont does not answer and the image of Triathlon disappears. On another face of the pyramid, the image of Lord Templar appears. Templar calls Tremont his spirit-brother and asks how he can help. Tremont tells Templar that he needs to borrow his power and his speed. The image of Templar suddenly turns three-dimensional and coalesces around Jonathan Tremont.
In New York, three of the Squad jump Warbird and use their gliding plates on their hands to zap Warbird. However, Warbird regretfully informs them that it won’t be enough to stop her, as she knocks them all back. Warbird blasts away a Squad member sneaking up on Silverclaw and orders the rest of the Avengers to form on her. The Squad may have surprised them, but there is no way the Avengers will give up so easily. Warbird begins to bark many orders, which the others follow and they quickly begin to gain the upper hand in the battle. Warbird takes care of the female Squad member as Captain Marvel, backed up by Ant-Man, takes down two of the others. With an army of ants and Marvel’s cosmic-awareness informing him on his foe’s next move, the two heroes easily win. Nearby, Silverclaw, who has morphed into a cobra, defeats the last two lackeys and then wonders where the Taskmaster went off to.
The Taskmaster returns and comments that he cannot leave the room for a second to plant some bombs without having his goons taken down. The team prepares for battle and Marvel cockily comments that there are four of them and one of him, so they can easily win. Marvel unleashes his might, but Taskmaster easily evades his blasts. With one swing of his sword, Taskmaster knocks Ant-Man off his queen ant and then kicks Silverclaw in the face once again. The Avengers begin to wonder if they have Taskmaster surrounded or is it the other way around. Taskmaster laughs and decides to bump down his Split-Second Squad down a level, because this battle was so easy. Taskmaster informs the Avengers that he has all their moves locked tight and there is nothing they can do about it.
Captain Marvel isn’t so sure of Taskmaster’s boasting. He orders the other Avengers to scatter and keep him occupied. Ant-Man, Silverclaw and Warbird attack Taskmaster from all sides, but none are able to land a scratch on him. Captain Marvel flies into the air, arcing up to build up his momentum. As Marvel is about to tackle the ready Taskmaster, the other Avengers back away. At the last possible moment, Marvel clangs his wristbands together and then does a loop-de-loop in the air, as he transforms back into Rick Jones, who lands feet first on the shocked Taskmaster’s face, knocking the criminal out. Rick Jones tells the others that the Taskmaster could have beaten him probably if he had more time to get over his surprise.
Ant-Man is surprised to see that Captain Marvel is actually Rick Jones and comments that he has both of Rick’s albums. “So you’re the one,” says Rick jokingly. Rick apologizes for not being able to stay, but he doesn’t want too many people associating him with Marvel. With that said, he clangs the wristbands together and Captain Marvel returns. Before any of the Avengers can say anything, Captain Marvel has another cosmic-awareness flash and tells the Avengers to look out behind them. It is too late, however, for as the Avengers turn around a being dressed in an elegant robe, much like Lord Templar’s, blasts the team away in a blinding white light.
Hours later, Warbird wakes up and wonders what happened. Her eyes adjust to the darkness and she takes in her surroundings: a massive crater filled with the charred remains of what used to be the Triune Understanding New York City headquarters, a skyscraper that rivaled the Empire State Building. What horrifies Warbird the most, however, is the sight on the edge of the crater, which is Jonathan Tremont, Triathlon, police officers and a swarm of reporters and cameraman, who furiously take pictures of the scene. Warbird begins speaking and tells the group that it isn’t as it seems. The Taskmaster, who was working for the Triunes, duped them into coming to the building. He tried to get them to wreck the place. Before Warbird can continue, Tremont scoffs at the word “tried” and tells the woman that it seems they did more than try. However, where is the Taskmaster now, if he is the one responsible? Why would the Triunes order him to destroy their headquarters, which, Tremont adds, they just spent millions constructing?
The reporters begin asking questions to Tremont, such as the value of the building and if he will press charges. Tremont explains that the value goes beyond money. They had research going on in the building that was to make technology to better the world and these Avengers set them back years in their effort. Tremont tells the gathering that he won’t press charges against the Avengers. He does, however, find it sad that they would spend so much energy in prejudice and hostility. As more questions come, Triathlon wonders why his leader keeps on calling this group Avengers. One quit such a long time ago and the other three were never members despite association. Also troubling Triathlon is how Tremont got to New York so fast from Hawaii.
Captain Marvel stares at Tremont, puzzled. Warbird asks him what is wrong. Marvel tells her that he doesn’t know, but there is something odd about that man up there. Suddenly, a reporter tells everyone that they have enough footage here so they should go, because she just got word that the real story is at Avengers Mansion. Captain America wasn’t the first to go and he isn’t the last. Rumor has it now that practically the entire team is leaving!
As the reporters rush off to Avengers Mansion, the heroes left in the crater get a foreboding feeling. Warbird, out loud, is not sure if she wants to know the answer, but how badly have they hurt the Avengers in the last few hours?
Ant-Man II, Captain Marvel II, Silverclaw, Warbird (Avengers allies)
Taskmaster/Captain America imposterJonathon TremontLord TemplarVarious Split-Second Squad members
Foggy NelsonVarious judges
Eduardo, Michealson (Tremont’s assistants)Various reporters and police officers
Captain America quit the Avengers in Avengers (3rd Series) #25, the same issue where Thor attacked the media.
Silverclaw came to America as a sponsor child in Avengers (3rd Series) #8.
Warbird crippled the ChampionAir plane in Iron Man (3rd Series) #24.
Scott Lang aided the Avengers as Ant-Man in Avengers (1st Series) #195-196.
Captain Marvel has been seeing hallucinations since Captain Marvel (2nd Series) #0.