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Geoff Johns (writer), Oliver Coipel (penciler), Andy Lanning (inker) Chris Sotomayor (colorist), RS & Comicraft’s Albert Deschesne (letterer), Marc Sumerak & Andy Schmidt (assistant editors), Tom Brevoort (editor), Joe Quesada (editor-in-chief), Bill Jemas (president)
A mysterious red cloud appears near Mount Rushmore and afflicts everyone enveloped with a horrible, flesh-eating virus. The Avengers come to help stop the virus and evacuate the sick but find themselves unwanted, due to their new U.N status. With the help of a park ranger, they also notice that the evacuation is done rather sloppily. Captain America orders Warbird to stay behind and help with the organization and decides to disobey the army’s orders and leads a group of Avengers inside the Red Zone to find the source of the epidemic.
Mount Rushmore, South Dakota, 1.39 P.M.:What’s that? asks a young boy, pointing at the Mount Rushmore Memorial of four famous presidents. He impatiently asks his father, who is discussing with his wife how he almost got arrested due to wrongdoings of his boss. Hs wife retorts that he shouldn’t have trusted the man just because he was the boss. The child calls his mom, but his parents are still busy discussing matters. The man remarks that he thought they took this road trip to forget about their problems for a while. To enjoy themselves and show Paul America. Washington. Jefferson. All that apple pie stuff.
His wife, Gail apologizes. She’s just… their car is on its last leg, they need a new washing machine and the mortgage… She is worried about the future.
Hey cool! Paul exclaims. It’s coming. He points towards a swirling red dust cloud coming from Mount Rushmore. Those people who breathe in the dust suddenly fall to the ground, contorted in agony, their skin showing red blotches. David orders Gail and Paul to get to the car. They get separated in the chaos of people fleeing. David grabs Paul, gets to the front of the crowd and orders Paul to run to his mother, while he himself gets swallowed by the dust. The crying boy runs to the car and his mother orders him to get to the floor and cover her face. She shouts “oh no” as she sees the telltale red blotches on her hands. Nevertheless, she starts the car’s engine and drives away as fast as she can.
Keystone South Dakota 2.13.p.m.:A park ranger named Tony Hawkins waits for reinforcements. He calls the firemen and cops aside, announcing they can’t just go into Keystone. There’s some flesh-eating virus or something. People he knows are hurt. He wants to help.
The other man from the ambulance tells him no virus works that fast. He doesn’t know what this is but the feds better show up soon. SHIELD, FEMA, the CDC. They need real gear. They are just wearing masks, for God’s sake! And they, Hawkins refers to the victims, aren’t wearing anything.
Within Keystone, there is chaos in the streets, as everyone is trying to get away. Hawkins dons a mask as he and the other rescue workers are trying to evacuate victims. A policeman orders for the sick to be take into the copters, the dead in the wagons. Hawkins asks where the choppers are taking the sick and learns that a camp is being set up south of there. Hakwin’s neck of the woods. Custer State Park weather said there was a front coming in, pushing everything east. Hawkins protests the wind isn’t heading east!
The copters take the sick away. A little later a car drives into town and Gail falls out after weakly shouting for someone to help her son. Paul tries to move her body, crying he wants to go home. A voice promises him they are going to get him home. Captain America takes him up. The Avengers have arrived.
Captain America orders the Vision to take the boy up to one of the leaving rescue choppers and the synthezoid complies. Cap calls after him that he is to tell the soldiers to make sure Paul gets whatever treatment they have ASAP. The boy gets home. He gave him their word.
Aboard one of the choppers the soldiers wonder who could be behind this disaster: Al Qaeda, HYDRA, Hizballah?
They are surprised when the Vision enters with Paul, announcing the child needs help. Pointing their weapons at him, the soldier explains that they are already loaded to full capacity. Any more weight and they’ll drop.
The Vision takes away their weaponry and tosses the arms out. As an explanation he adds that those weapons weigh approximately sixty pounds. As does this boy (whom he now lays down). Machines can be replaced. He cannot. Passing through them, the Vision suggests the men re-evaluate their priorities. They should contact their loved ones. Pray to their higher powers. They may not make it out alive. With that, he leaves.
Down below, Hawkins examines Paul’s dead mother, softly swearing. When Cap asks him if he is in charge there, he nervously replies that he doesn’t know whether he should salute him or not – He’s only the Park Warden. What is all this? A bio-attack or…?
Looking at the car, Cap admits the Avengers know as much as he does. A cloud of disease five miles in diameter is hovering over Mount Rushmore. Expanding at a rate of fifty feet per minute. The Warden addresses him that they must stop those copters. The wind is coming from the north not the west.
Showing some strain, Cap lifts the car, announcing that there are people trapped in that R.V. Somebody else lifts the weight easily. Fellow Avengers She-Hulk, Warbird, Ant-Man Scarlet Witch and Jack of Hearts have arrived. There was a pile-up nearby, Carol Danvers explains, and it took a few moments for them to clear the road. Any casualties? Captain America demands. Ant-Man admits that there was one… a little girl. Being a father himself, Ant Man is hit hard by this. Almost pleadingly, he talks about all those kids dying and asks if they are going to stop this somehow.
They are wrong, the park warden repeats. The wind is blowing south. It’s going to push the cloud right over Custer State Park. What? asks Jack of Hearts, not understanding. The Warden adds that this is where they are taking everyone. In disbelief, Jack asks why the Avengers didn’t get to co-ordinate this. Because this isn’t their show, comes the voice of a new arrival, who coldly introduces himself as General Feaster. He adds that there was a miscalculation in the air currents. The government will handle the evacuation in the park. They’ll get the choppers back in the air.
The Scarlet Witch suggests they take some time and do it safely. She begins to probe the chaotic paths of the molecules, randomized by temperature and pressure. Easy enough for her to motivate. She spreads her arms and concentrates. She absorbs the disorder in the air and redirects it. It will be a while before the winds find their ways again, she concludes.
The Vision returns, announcing that while he is not in danger of catching the disease, the others may be. Hence, the EPA is supplying all who are staying with protection suits. Captain America corrects him; they aren’t staying, they are going in.
The general thinks him crazy for risking his team’s lives. They don’t know what they are dealing with yet. They’ll let him know, Cap replies off-handedly. He addresses She-Hulk and Jack of Hearts both of whom have a level of invulnerability. Nevertheless, they should play it safe, he suggests. Jack refuses the suit, replying that he will take his chances. Jennifer hesitates for a moment before grabbing a suit and joking that green always was her color… just in case.
The general orders the Avengers to stand their ground, as this is area has been quarantined- declared a Red Zone. Ignoring him, Captain America asks Warbird to stay behind and help the general organize the troops, to search for more survivors. Her background as a NASA project leader cold come in handy here.
He orders the others to split in teams of two: Scarlet Witch and Vision. Jack of Hearts and Ant-Man. She-Hulk with him. Jennifer voices concern at teaming up Ant-Man and Jerk of Hearts together. They don’t really work well together. They better start now, Captain America replies curtly.
Ant-Man tells Jack that his Ant-Man helmet didn’t fit beneath the protection suit. Jack points out he won’t need it. He doubts that any insects are alive for him to chat with. Man this is insane, Ant-Man muses, end of the world stuff. End of the world? asks Cap. Not until the Avengers say so.
Ant-Man II, Captain America, Jack of Hearts, Scarlet Witch, She-Hulk, Vision, Warbird (all Avengers)
Park warden Tony HawkinsParamedics and soldiersGeneral Feaster
David, Gail and PaulOther victims