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Christos Gage (writer), Tom Raney (penciler), Scott Hanna (inker), Jeromy Cox (colorist), VC’s Joe Caramagna (letterer), Billy Tan & Leonardo Olea (cover artists), John Denning (assistant editor), Bill Rosemann (editor), Axel Alonso (editor in chief), Joe Quesada (chief creative officer), Dan Buckley (publisher), Alan Fine (executive producer)
Realizing that the Infinite Mansion will materialize on Earth and kill countless innocents, Finesse informs her fellow students that sacrifices have to be made. She can program the computer to self-destruct the mansion but she needs someone to keep the Absorbing Man and Titania from her whilst she does it. She reckons Hazmat is the only one powerful enough to do it. Anyone volunteering is guaranteeing their own death. Mettle decides to join Hazmat and the three of them bravely decide that by sacrificing themselves they can save many more. Meanwhile, Giant-Man awakens on board USS Harry S. Truman and informs his fellow teachers that something is wrong at the mansion. As Finesse prepares to destroy the mansion, the Absorbing Man and Titania arrive for battle and both Mettle and Hazmat fight them as hard as they can. However, during the fight, the teachers arrive and Giant-Man takes out both the villains and asks the kids to jump onto his hands. Justice gathers the rest in a telekinetic bubble whilst Quicksilver informs Finesse that he can activate the self-destruct mechanism using his super speed. When the mansion explodes, saving Chicago and its inhabitants, they half-expect the villains to die, but they appear alive and well. The Absorbing Man taunts Hank that he will return to kill him but for now their master needs them. Once the danger is passed, Tigra congratulates her students, only for Veil to decide that the Avengers life isn’t for her. She quits!
(Infinite Avengers Mansion, Headquarters of Avengers Academy)A door opens and Hazmat almost falls through it. “What the hell is that?” she exclaims as she looks behind her into a strange environment. As she manages to run back inside, Finesse explains that it’s the Microverse - a subatomic dimension located above Underspace where their Infinite Mansion used to exist. She tries to explain further but Hazmat isn’t interested.
Looking out through the door at some inhabitants of the Microverse, Striker tells Finesse that he doesn’t understand. They’re growing bigger ever second. Why aren’t they squashing all these tiny little planets like ants? Finesse explains that it’s because they’re in a state of flux, not matching their vibrational frequency. Basically they’re just ‘passing through.’ “So we’re okay,” says Striker. “Not even a little bit,” she replies. She explains that the Absorbing Man or whatever he’s become has absorbed the properties of the mansion’s Pym Particle Generator - the technologies that allow Giant-Man to change size. He’s forcing the mansion and everything inside it to grow, and clearly his ultimate goal is to end that journey on Earth! She adds that the Infinite Mansion is the size of a city. When they materialize, they will kill thousands of civilians.
Meanwhile, the Absorbing Man and his companion, Titania, are now inside the mansion. Titania revels in feeling the terror of an entire plane of existence. Of all the Serpent’s children, she feels that none serve him as well as they do. Creel smashes his way through a wall with ease and agrees with her, adding that, although the realm is distant and small, the fear they sow upon Earth will be their crowning glory. The device’s power is now his. When Pym sees them emerge from the wreckage of this place, he wants his hammer’s chain adorned with the heads of his students. He holds the glowing chain before him and grins, his eyes glowing brightly with the power within him.
(The USS Harry S. Truman, the Persian Gulf)Giant Man is laid out on the deck, stuck at giant-size. He dwarves the planes that are assembled in the center of the ship. Quicksilver, Justice and Tigra are beside him. Tigra is concerned that he might not be stable, but Justice asks what she means, asking her to look at the size of him. He knows that she’s worried, but Hank’s life signs are strong. He wouldn’t have moved him otherwise. Tigra asks, in that case, why he won’t wake up? Quicksilver reckons that, due to his metabolism, he heals at an accelerated rate. It’s probably the reverse for Hank. He simply needs time. At that moment, Hank’s eyes pop open and he shrinks to normal size. He informs them that something’s wrong at the Infinite Mansion. They need to move now!
(Infinite Mansion)Finesse is checking out the computers and she exclaims that she knew Hank would have something for a situation like this. Hazmat asks if she means a way to stop the mansion from growing. Finesse replies that she means a way to destroy it. She explains that she can activate a destruct function that will atomize the entire structure. If she times it right, the civilians should be spared. Striker tells her that’s great, but how do they get out? She tells him that there’s a risk, but simply exiting the mansion as it materializes on Earth should enable some of them to get clear in time. “Hold up,” replies Striker. “Some of us?” Finesse informs him that, if they can catch the Absorbing Man and Titania in the mansion when it detonates, there’s a chance of killing them. If not, they’ll simply continue their path of murder and destruction. Someone has to stay and keep them there. Whoever that is will die.
Striker suggests using the training robots but Finesse says they won’t last a second. They’d swat them aside and ignore them. It has to be someone they want to fight and want to kill. Reptil steps up and states that as class leader it’s his responsibility. Mettle then walks in and Hazmat asks if he’s okay. He informs her that it was weird, like his body just shut down but he’s good now. Finesse asks Reptil not to be ridiculous. The Absorbing Man beat him easily. It only makes sense for two of them to stay. She will run the computer. Reptil tells her she can’t, but she replies that she is the only one who can use the computer. No one else is familiar with the systems. Reptil says they’ll try something else. She doesn’t want to die, does she? Finesse turns away and replies that she doesn’t, of course, but this way some of them will live. She explains that the other person has to delay their enemies; enemies who nearly killed them with minimum effort. Hazmat is the only one who even slowed them down.
Finesse taps away at the computer controls and informs them that if they wait by the door when they enter Earthspace, she calculates that they have a three second window for them to exit. Reptil approaches her and tells her that he doesn’t care who her parents are or what anyone says about her. He’s grown up idolizing heroes his whole life and he knows when he’s looking at one. With that, he moves in and kisses her. Finesse is momentarily shocked, but she soon reciprocates and kisses him tenderly. She then breaks off the says that time is running out. “Stations everyone.”
As Mettle and Hazmat remain inside, Reptil, Striker and Veil stand by the door. Veil can’t help herself. “Mettle, Hazmat. Just, thanks. It’s been…” Mettle looks back and says, “Yeah, same here brah.” Veil wants to try the robots but Striker assures her that they wouldn’t work. This is the only way. They going. She shouldn’t make him shock her senseless and carry her. Mettle turns to Hazmat, hand in hand and asks if she’s ready. She says no, but they should go anyway. Veil sheds a tear as she sees her friends disappear.
Jenny tells Ken that if she’d known this was going to happen and if they’d had more time… well, there are things she wants to say to him. He tells her that he does too but they don’t have the time. Jenny removes her helmet. “Well, we have a little,” she replies. They kiss each other, only for their embrace to be cut short as the Absorbing Man and Titania appear. “Ah, young lovers,” smiles Titania. “I do so love killing them.”
Hazmat puts her helmet back on and in a determined fashion tells Mettle that she’s gonna make this hurt. “Come on!” she cries as she gives Titania everything she has. Mettle smashes Creel as they try to take the fight to the powerful duo. The others can only wait whilst Finesse keeps them informed. She tells them they’re almost there. As Creel smashes Mettle through a wall, Hazmat manages to avoid Titania’s strikes and continues to blast her with radiation. Finesse says, “On my mark, go!”
As the mansion hovers above Chicago, suddenly a massive pair of hands crashes through another wall and swats Titania away from Hazmat. Quicksilver appears next to Finesse and tells her to join her classmates. Finesse points out that someone has to activate the self-destruct manually. It was meant for Jocasta. Pietro understands that she would have projected her consciousness into another body in the second it takes the mansion to blow, but as she’s not there, he will do it.
As Giant-Man crushes the Absorbing Man into the floor, Finesse tells Pietro that, after all he’s done for her, she can’t let him die. Pietro reminds her that one second is an eternity for him. He asks her to be a good girl and mind her teacher. Meanwhile, Hank opens his hands out wide and asks Mettle and Hazmat to jump on. Pietro tells the rest to leave right away. They don’t need telling twice.
Giant-Man reaches up to the descending mansion and grabs Hazmat and Mettle. Justice uses his telekinetic power to grab Striker, Finesse, Reptil and Veil as they exit through the door. As the mansion detonates, Hank shields his eyes. Smoke swirls around them and Mettle, standing on Hank’s shoulder, asks if they’re dead. Unfortunately, the answer comes as a resounding “no” as the Absorbing Man and Titania swing down through the smoke. Creel laughs. He finds it intoxicating; the terror of an entire city convinced it’s about to die.
Titania says that they’ve served the Serpent well. They should now serve themselves. She knows that he hates Pym with the fires of Hel and he has so many unshattered bones. Creel asks if she can’t feel it. Now that they are returned to Earth the all-father summons his children for the final conflict. Their loyalty to him can be no less than these mortals for each other. He tells Hank that he leaves him and his whelps alive, for he knows that this world is theirs and he can return to kill him at his leisure. He invites him to the coming battle. He would love to carve the serpents throne from his skull! He and Titania then disappear, leaving Chicago, for the time being, peaceful.
As Mettle and Hazmat jump to a nearby building, he asks Hank what all that ‘final conflict’ stuff was about. Hank admits that he’s not sure but he’ll check in with Commander Rogers and see if they’re needed. It’s nothing to concern themselves with, though. They’ve earned a rest. Striker asks where? He reckons he’s currently inhaling his bedroom. Hazmat realizes that all her vintage Dazzler posters will have been destroyed. Striker tells her that she shouldn’t keep valuable stuff in a super hero headquarters. Besides, she should look on the bright side. Five minutes ago she was about to die!
Striker suddenly remembers Speedball’s cat. He forgot all about Niels. He was in there. Quicksilver appears behind him carrying Niels and assures Brandon that he has him. He was bouncing around Lincoln Park. Apparently he survives explosions as easily as his master. Tigra tells the kids to get themselves to a hotel and clean themselves up. They have a few things to figure out. They should remember that they faced enemies with the power of Thor and survived. They conducted themselves like heroes in the face of disaster. They should be proud of themselves. They did everything they were trained for and more. They acted like Avengers!
Veil asks if she’s crazy. This is what they were trained for? They sent them to war and they killed people. She turns to her friends and tells them that they were put in a position where they had to choose which of them would commit suicide! She’s got things in her head… smells, sounds, things she’s done that will never go away. She feels that this is all wrong. They’re sick. If this is what an Avenger is all about she wants nothing to do with it. Removing her mask she says, “I quit.”
Finesse, Hazmat, Mettle, Reptil, Striker and Veil (all students)Giant-Man, Justice, Quicksilver, Tigra (all teachers)
Absorbing Man (Greithoth)Titania (Skirn)
This is part of the Fear Itself crossover.
There is a minor spelling error. Striker calls Speedball’s car Neils but it should be Niels.