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Christos Gage (writer), Tom Grummet (penciler), Cory Hamscher (inker), Chris Sotomayer (colorist), VC’s Joe Caramagna (letterer), Guiseppe Camuncoli & Jim Charalampidis (cover artists), Jon Moisan (assistant editor), Bill Rosemann (editor), Axel Alonso (editor in chief), Joe Quesada (chief creative officer), Dan Buckley (publisher), Alan Fine (executive producer)
Jeremy Briggs has deployed Clean Slate, a weapon that will depower almost every hero on Earth and Lightspeed rockets after them as they head towards their targets. The rest of the team enters into battle with Briggs and the Enchantress, though it doesn’t take her long to decide to leave before it’s too late. Briggs fights them alone and with everything on the line, he gets nasty. As Lightspeed tries to catch and disable all the rockets, Veil realizes that she won’t be able to do it alone. She uses her ingenuity to free Jocasta from her captivity in China and her body in New York awakens almost simultaneously. With her help, Veil manages to get all the rockets to head towards Julie, who disables them with ease. Back in Manhattan, Briggs explodes X-23’s stomach and begins to burn her by turning her sweat to acid. Finesse decides to act. She grabs Laura’s arms and plunges her claws into two important places on Briggs’ body. He begins to bleed to death and finds himself unable to stop it from happening. Finesse attempts to stop the bleeding but, when Briggs explains that the government will simply reward him with a lab in which he can create an even better Clean Slate, Finesse removes the tourniquet and allows him to bleed to death. Lightspeed arrives back to find the battle over, with X-23 believing that somehow she killed Jeremy Briggs. The cops clean up the scene and allow the kids to go, only Jocasta doesn’t believe that they will be ever be able to back to the lives they lived before.
(The Briggs Foundation, Manhattan)Rockets carrying a weapon called Clean Slate take to the air as the Avengers Academy students look on. Reptil points them out to Lightspeed, who takes off in pursuit. Briggs asks Enchantress to intervene so she blasts Lightspeed with a spell that stops her in her tracks. Briggs tells the kids that they are stupid. He can give them all seizures by changing the chemistry in their brains and Sylvie could turn them into toads with a thought. He explains that Clean Slate is deployed and by tomorrow the only people who will have powers are the ones he says will. They are beaten but don’t even get it.
As he speaks, Mettle brings his giant fists onto the ground, smashing everyone off-balance. This allows X-23 to have a go at slashing Briggs, but unfortunately she only just slices his stomach. Hazmat also takes the opportunity to blast Enchantress and then Striker zaps them both with a powerful electric strike. “That, was a mistake,” says Mettle as he stands over Briggs. Lightspeed manages to pick up where she left off and she races after the rockets. She contacts Veil by radio and asks if she’s tracking the missiles. Veil monitors them on a screen and informs Julie that she is, but they are starting to separate. If even one gets through…
She asks Julie just how fast she is. “Fast enough,” she replies as she flies above one of the rockets and pulls apart the wiring inside it. As long as she knows where the missiles are, she can handle this. Veil tells her she’s with her and Julie replies that, in that case, they have a chance and should make it count.
Back on the rooftop, Briggs can’t believe that they actually hurt him. Not much can and he’s not a fan. He turns to Mettle and tells him to try breathing chlorine gas. Green gas pours out of Ken’s mouth, but he simply grabs Briggs by his shirt and explains that he doesn’t breathe anymore… because of him! He smashes his fist into Briggs’ stomach, winding him and he tells him to feel what it’s like. Enchantress uses a spell to trap the others in the Crimson Bands of Cyttorak but combining their powers, White Tiger and Reptil manage to destroy it. Sylvie is amazed. They shouldn’t be able to break the bands. They’re magic! “So are we,” replies Ava as Reptil turns into an Ankylosaurus. He swings his tail at her and the distraction allows White Tiger to get in close and use her claws to scratch several lines down her face.
Sylvie cries out and says she shouldn’t even be there. As she touches the blood seeping from her wounds, she tells them she doesn’t care what they do. She doesn’t care who has powers and who doesn’t. She came because she was tired of super hero fights. She wanted more out of life, but it’s all the same old drama. “And this is totally going to scar!” She informs Briggs that he lied to her and she’s going home. As he begs her not to leave him, she disappears in a puff of smoke.
Reptil doesn’t give Briggs a chance to think and orders the others to charge him. As they rush towards him, Briggs snarls at them and says this is what he meant. He’s trying to save the world and they think they know better because they’re the ’good guys.’ Fine, he adds, they want him to be the bad guy then they can say hello to the bad guy. Bursts of fire shoot from the roof.
(meanwhile)Lightspeed takes out another rocket which explodes in mid-air. She asks Veil where the next one is. Veil informs her that they’re nearing the edge of the atmosphere and she’ll never reach them all. Julie says she has to try and again asks where the next one is. Veil reckons they can’t do this alone, so she concocts a plan. She calls the Briggs Chemical office in China and tells two scientists that she needs them to unlock Vault Theta. One of them replies that he can’t do that without direct orders from Briggs himself. She shows them video footage of the fight occurring on Briggs’ rooftop and tells them that he’s under attack. What is in the vault is the only thing that can help him. The scientist begins to stutter, uncertain what to do. Veil says she doesn’t have time to explain. He should look in the vault and see for himself. There must be cameras inside there. He should activate them.
The scientist decides he has little option but to activate the camera in Vault Theta. He says he doesn’t understand. It’s just a robot! Inside the vault, Jocasta wakes up and immediately extends her hands to scare off the two scientists. “Not just a robot,” she tells them.” I am Jocasta. You should run.” A moment later and the Jocasta body in the Briggs Building awakens and she tears her way through the door to where Veil is at the controls. She thanks Madeline, adding that she was trapped in a cell sealed against all electronic transmissions. “Until they turned on the camera,” replies Veil. “That’s what I was going for.” Jocasta says they were wrong about Jeremy and asks what he’s done now. Veil explains that he’s launched the Clean Slate missiles and that Lightspeed is trying her best, but she can’t get to them all. Jocasta remarks that Julie is a brave and resourceful young woman, but she is only human.
Veil contacts Julie, who replies that she’s been calling her for two minutes. She needs to know where the missiles are, now! She then looks up and sees all the missiles heading her way. Veil tells her they should all be where she steered her. “Take ‘em out!” Jocasta smiles and tells Veil that it’s all about how you talk to them. Back at the fight, Briggs understands that the students are trying to overwhelm him with numbers, but it’s too bad for them that explosions are easy for him. X-23 charges at him and tells him it’s not the best tactic. He is scared and lashing out blindly. He is not a fighter. She plunges her claws into his left shoulder and he cries out as blood is drawn. “You have no stomach for this,” she warns him. Furious, Briggs replies that she has no stomach. He then causes an explosion inside it and X-23 falls to the floor, severely injured.
Seeing Laura’s skin start to smoke, Finesse tells him to stop. What is he doing? Briggs informs her that he’s turning her sweat to acid. She doesn’t get to do this to him. No one does! He gave them every chance and they betrayed him and tried to ruin everything he’s worked so hard to accomplish. Now, they’re out of chances. There’ll be no more playing. He’ll burn her to nothing and then do the same to them. Finesse finds that she has little choice. She grabs Laura’s arm and shoves her left-handed claws into Briggs’ left thigh and her right-handed claws into Briggs’ left forearm. “Y-you stabbed me,” he gasps. Finesse informs him she stabbed him in the radial and femoral arteries. He is bleeding to death. Briggs drops to the floor and looks up, helpless. Finesse tells him that she can see that he is trying to clot the blood but the wounds are too large. He is getting dizzy and unable to focus. Unless she ties off his limbs and get some medical attention, she can promise him that he is going to die.
Briggs smiles at her and says he surrenders. He won anyway. Clean Slate has been deployed. Finesse ties off his arm and points out that he underestimates her teammates. Briggs asks her to say that he did. Let’s say they stopped it and distributed the cure. Does she really think it’ll make a damn bit of difference? The government’s been watching the X-Men and Avengers put the entire world at risk. Does she think they’re going to let him rot in jail when he’s the solution to their problem? They’ll give him a lab and anything he wants to come up with a new strain of Clean Slate… maybe one that can’t be cured. He’s going to be the most popular guy in America and, at the end of the day, he’ll get exactly what he wanted.
Finesse looks at him and realizes that he’s right. She then removes the tourniquet and stands back up. Briggs manages to stand up and he tells her that she can’t do this. This isn’t right! She’s supposed to be a hero - an Avenger! He drops to his knees again and, weakly, says that she can’t let him die. Finesse asks him to remember why they were recruited to Avengers Academy in the first place. It wasn’t because they were the best or the most heroic. Quite the opposite. It’s because they were at most risk of becoming criminals. “Say hello to the bad guy.” Briggs lies down and dies in a pool of blood.
Lightspeed returns and informs Jocasta that she got them all. She’s amazing. Jocasta replies that they all are. Mettle reckons they should take a victory lap later. They have to stop Briggs. He turns and wonders where he is. He then notices his body lying on the ground. Finesse informs Ken that Briggs lost too much blood. He is dead. Laura, now conscious thanks to her healing factor asks, “I did this?” Finesse pauses a moment and then replies that he would have killed them all. There was no acceptable alternative. Mettle mentions that he killed a guy in the war with the Serpent. It bothered him a lot. This… not even a little.”
(Briggs Foundation lobby, hours later)The police are on hand and talking to Jocasta. She informs them that the Enchantress may have spirited her friends away, though they had ample time to escape on their own. As Striker receives some medical attention, she asks him if he remembers when Reptil got those burns fighting Electro. They used that University of Pittsburgh treatment on him. Striker thinks maybe that will work, but this has been a disaster. They came there so Mettle and Hazmat could get their lives back and all they got was a taste before it was snatched away. That’s worse than nothing. Veil reckons it’s not for all of them. She is cured and still normal. However, she does feel bad for Ken and Jenny. Striker asks her not to. She’s a friend and even if there is nothing they can do for his face and, even after all the crap they’ve been through today, if it got her a future and the chance to get old, fall in love and be happy, it was totally worth it. Veil hugs him and says he is a friend, the best friend she ever had.
The officer speaking to Jocasta informs her that crime scene is done and they can all go. They will be in touch as they’ll need statements but, from what he saw, it’s what they call a righteous shoot. Self defense. As far as he is concerned the kids can go back to their lives. Jocasta thanks him but feels that he is mistaken. After today, for good or ill, she would venture to say none of them can.
Finesse, Hazmat, Lightspeed, Mettle, Reptil, Striker, White Tiger, X-23 (full-time students)Jeremy BriggsEnchantress
JocastaScientistsPolice Officers and paramedic
The students fought Electro and the Sinister Six in Avengers Academy #14.