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Geoff Johns (writer), Olivier Coipel (penciler), Andy Lanning (inker), RS and Comicraft’s Albert Deschesne (letters), Chris Sotomayor (colors), Marc Sumerak, Andy Schmidt (asst. editors), Tom Brevoort (editor), Joe Quesada (editor in chief), Bill Jemas (president).
Faced with the possibility that the Red Zone virus will begin consuming North America, Warbird and Tom Hawkins rush to Pierre, South Dakota, to get the Avengers to regroup. Meanwhile, a frantic call comes from Stark International, and Iron Man’s assistant reveals that Wakandan scientists have found a solution to the virus, but Iron Man and Black Panther have been kidnapped, and the scientists will not work without Panther’s permission. Red Skull continues to torture Gyrich and the Falcon, and then imprisons Captain America in a cell with the Red Zone virus. Iron Man and Black Panther arrive, only to see Skull apparently killing two of their teammates.
Warbird and Tom Hawkins fly toward the state capital, and Carol tells Tom that he didn’t need to be there. Carol says that she doesn’t want Tom getting hurt. Tom looks out of the helicopter, and sees the body of a slain E.M.S. worker, the same one that picked him up in the morning. Before Warbird can respond, the radio sounds, and General Feaster of the Army asks for her location.Carol responds that she is going to pick up the other Avengers, as there has been some trouble. Feaster says that there is a woman from Stark Enterprises calling, asking for any Avenger. Carol asks him to put her through. On the line is Pepper, Tony Stark’s personal assistant. She tells Carol frantically that some men from the military just barged in and took Black Panther and Tony away, and they both need to be found immediately – because the Wakandan scientists have arrived with the cure to the virus, but they will not work until T’Challa gives his permission.
Warbird lands the helicopter, and gets out to help the fallen Avengers. Tom loads Wanda into the helicopter, and Carol stares in awe at the U.S. bio-weapon facility that lies open and is producing the virus.Captain America staggers out of the building, telling Carol that Vision, Jack of Hearts, Ant-Man, and She-Hulk were all inside. Quickly, they load the battered Vision, Jack, and Scott Lang into the helicopter, but Jennifer is nowhere to be found. Wanda says that Jennifer was exposed to the virus and her suit tore, but when she fell unconscious, Jack tried carrying her out of the disease’s path. Carol reacts with anger toward Jack, as in recent months, she has been getting sick whenever Jack is in close proximity. Warbird theorizes that since Jack absorbs radiation, he might have altered her immune system. Cap says that Jennifer has run off somewhere, hopefully far enough away to fight the sickness. He says that they will search for her later, but for now, they need to stop America from becoming a graveyard.
The highways surrounding Pierre are littered with crashed cars and fires, after the people fleeing contracted the virus and died.
At St. Mary’s hospital, Captain America contacts Jarvis back in New York to send out a bulletin on She-Hulk. The sick and injured Avengers are resting in the hospital. Carol asks Steve why he isn’t getting more rest right now, and he replies that he was once frozen for several decades, so he can handle it. Cap asks Wanda to push her hex powers to the limit to help them out this time. Wanda promises that she will. Cap lets everyone know that he is taking the helicopter to go after Dell Rusk in Washington.
The Pentagon, Washington:The Red Skull rains blows upon the shackled Henry Peter Gyrich. Gyrich says that he refuses to talk, but the Skull tells him that he doesn’t need to talk, only to bleed. He tells Gyrich that he does not want any more interruptions, so he will create another terrorist attack. He pushes a button on his desk, and the Pentagon suddenly fills with sleeping gas, knocking out all of the employees.
In a cell in another part of the building, Tony Stark tells the Black Panther that sometimes he needs to take a risk to escape. Tony asks the Panther to stand back, and the Iron Man armor breaks down the wall in front of them. Iron Man watches as three guards pass out in front of them, and detects traces of sleeping gas in the air.
The Red Skull continues torturing Gyrich. Gyrich says that if Skull thinks he can raise the Fourth Reich by posing as Secretary of Defense, he’s insane. Skull laughs at the suggestion. He wipes some of Gyrich’s blood off the way, and asks Gyrich if his dream is not to be in a position of power. The Skull spent the last year implementing his rise to power. Though difficult, he earned it through hard work and a strong financial supporter. A.I.M. supplied him with technology to brainwash Congress, and he rewarded them by giving them access to a super-weapon that would help them in their goals. However, he didn’t tell them that by touching the weapon, they would set it off. Skull says that the dream of the Fourth Reich is over. He realizes that freedom must feel fear, and fear begets control. America already has all of these attitudes in place, and plenty of resources. For America to become the perfect nation, all it needs is a little push in the right direction.As the Red Skull salutes the flag, a window breaks, and Captain America hurls his shield at the Skull, ordering him never to salute that flag. The shield’s impact sends the Skull flying backwards, and Cap catches it on the rebound. Rogers says that he doesn’t know how Rusk got all the way into this position, but he knows how he’s leaving it – on a gurney.He fights the Skull as hard as he can, filled with rage at the deaths of thousands of Americans at the Skull’s hands. The Skull fights back, and manages to surprise Cap. However, the Skull pulls a gun and tries to shoot Gyrich, but Cap gets in the way with his shield fast enough.He tells Cap to turn around and look at the thing he calls a partner, and Cap turns around, horrified, to see the limp body of Falcon strung up by his arms with a bullet in his chest. The Skull laughs, and says that Rogers should have seen the Falcon’s eyes when he realized who Dell Rusk was – like a betrayed puppy.Cap tries to hit the Skull again, but finds himself trapped behind an armored glass wall that locks both men inside. The room begins filling with the virus. Skull tells Cap to breathe it all in, as it is based on the same agent that changed him for the better – the agent that made him the Red Skull.Cap raises his shield to fight again, but the Skull says that it is too late, he is already infected, just as thousands of Americans. Unlike the Red Skull, however, none of them have the ability to fight the virus. The Skull says that only he has the key to stopping the virus. Maybe tomorrow, maybe in a month. When he feels that sufficient terror has been spread that he knows he will have no problems getting the President to launch nuclear strikes against the aggressor nations of this terrorist assault, he will stop the disease. Of course, that aggressor will be a country of the Skull’s choosing. Egypt, perhaps North Korea. But as Skull hits Gyrich again, he wonders if perhaps he should wreak havoc with the Avengers. Captain America stares at him with fury in his eyes. The Skull looks down and says sadistically that Wakanda will be the first nation to fall under the new America. At that moment, Iron Man and the Black Panther burst in through the wall, and the Skull looks up and smiles at them.
Guten Tag, Black Panther. I was just talking about you.
Ant-Man II, Black Panther, Captain America, Iron Man, Jack of Hearts, Scarlet Witch, She-Hulk, Vision, Warbird (Avengers)Henry Peter Gyrich
Tom Hawkins (South Dakota park warden)
Several medical and military personnelPepper Potts, Tony Stark’s assistant