New York City: ‘Easy sis, I got you!’ exclaims Johnny Storm a.k.a. the Human Torch, formerly of the Fantastic Four as he swoops down in a burst of flames and grabs his sister, Susan Storm-Richards a.k.a. the powerful Invisible Woman, also formerly of the Fantastic Four, rescuing her from a group of S.H.I.E.L.D agents. One of the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents radios to another squad, informing them that the Invisible Woman is being aided by the Human Torch. The agents take flight as they are ordered to stay in pursuit. But in the air, Johnny tells Sue to make them invisible, so she does.
In the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier, S.H.I.E.L.D.’s Director, Maria Hill, remarks that, it has to be said - flooding the streets with S.H.I.E.L.D. agents has made an enormous impact on criminal activity, and adds that if their agents keep this up, there might not be any need for those New Thunderbolts. An officer announces to the agents following the renegade former Fantastic Four members that Hill wants a sit-rep on them, and asks the agents if they have nailed them yet. One of the agents replies that they need another two minutes, and announces that they are switching to infra-red.
Meanwhile, at Stark Tower, long-time friend and colleague of Tony Stark, Happy Hogan meets with Kyle Richmond a.k.a. Nighthawk of the Defenders and Cassie Lang a.k.a. Stature of the Young Avengers, who until recently were allied with Captain America’s Secret Avengers team, and tells them how grateful he is that they are joining the Pro-Registration side. Happy adds that he knows it couldn’t have been easy for them, walking away from Captain America just like that.
The handsome Nighthawk tells Happy that it was probably the toughest decision he has ever had to make. Happy assures Nighthawk that he knows what he means. ‘Your head says “Tony Stark” but you heart wants things just the way they’ve always been’. Kyle tells Happy that, unfortunately, they are living in a different world now, and he supposes that it took Goliath to make him realize that.
Happy turns to Cassie and asks her if she is ready to just walk away from her teammates in the Young Avengers, pointing out that this is a big step she is taking here. Cassie remarks that people want heroes to be properly trained now, and points out that it is not the nineteen-forties anymore. ‘All I want is to do my job to the best of my abilities’. Happy tells Cassie that is great, before informing them that he will get them downstairs in a second or two for background checks, but that Tony Stark had said he wanted to welcome them both personally. ‘It’s not like the big guy to keep people waiting…’ Happy remarks looking at his watch.
Upstairs in Stark Towers, Tony “Iron Man” Stark, one of the front-runners for the Pro-Registration of super beings tells his teammate from the Avengers Peter “Spider-Man” Parker that he is acting like a lunatic, and suggests they sit down and discuss this like grown ups. Spider-Man replies by telling Tony that there is nothing to discuss. ‘I’m leaving the Avengers!’ Peter explains to Tony that he doesn’t have a problem working for S.H.I.E.L.D., but as for locking heroes in the Negative Zone, the Thor-clone killing Bill Foster, that he does have a problem with. ‘You’re in over your head!’ Peter exclaims.
Iron Man asks Spider-Man what he is talking about, pointing out that “Thor” acted like a police officer would have. ‘Don’t forget that Bill Foster was a friend of mine!’ Tony remarks, asking Peter if he really thinks they are going to let something like that happen again. He then asks Spider-Man what he thinks they should do with the unregistered super-beings - ‘Lock them up with regular prisoners?’ He assures Peter that this is only a temporary measure, but if they lock them up in Rykers, then they will be out in five minutes.
Tony tells Peter that he has to appreciate that there are forces within the government and S.H.I.E.L.D. who like nothing more than to outlaw all super humans. ’Get out of my way!’ is all Spider-Man replies, to which Tony tells him not to be a fool, and asks him if he really thinks he can just go back to his old life now that everyone knows who he really is. ‘This isn’t just about you anymore! What about May? What about Mary Jane?’ Tony asks, referring to Peter’s beloved aunt and wife. Peter responds by smashing Tony through the next wall
, then declaring that his aunt and Mary Jane are as far away as possible. Tony tells Peter that he is disappointed in him, and fires a repulsor beam at him. Peter easily dodges thanks to his enhanced agility, and replies ‘Not as disappointed as I am in myself!’ as he leaps towards a window, ready to smash his way through it - except that he just smashes against it, and falls to the ground. ‘Avengers Headquarters. Reinforced glass’ Iron Man remarks. At that moment, several S.H.I.E.L.D. agents rush into the room, telling Stark to stand back, that they have Spider-Man, and being firing dozens of bullets at him - except the bullets shatter the glass, and Peter forces himself out the high-rise window, ‘Stop! Hold your fire!’ Iron Man orders the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, except it’s too late. ‘Dammit!’ he exclaims angrily.
From the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier, Maria Hill radios in to Tony, telling him that she just got word Spider-Man has gone rogue, and orders Tony to remain in the area and wait for back up, as she is pulling every agent on the ground. Tony tells Maria to wait, that he just needs to talk to Spider-Man, but he can barely get the words out as Maria snaps back ‘Request denied, Star! Over and out!’
The Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. then radios to the Thunderbolts division, declaring that she wants fourteen operatives activated on a sixty minute trial. She remarks that she knows they were saving them for the final battle, but that the situation is critical. A S.H.I.E.L.D. agent stands in the Thunderbolts division, where waiting ready to go are fourteen of the Thunderbolts Army - Songbird, Atlas, Radioactive Man, Joystick, Venom, Bullseye, Lady Deathstrike, Taskmaster, Jack O-Lantern, Jester, Ox, Vector, Ironclad and X-Ray, the latter three being members of the U-Foes also.
‘I knew we couldn’t trust that guy!’ Maria snaps, referring to Spider-Man, who at that very moment is running through a sewer. An officer reports that they have Spider-Man’s location, between Third and Fourth Street, adding that word from the street says only minimum force will be required.
Suddenly, a little toy skates along the water in front of Peter. ‘What the -?’ Peter exclaims before the toy blows up, sending him crashing back in the sewer. The Jester stands over Spider-Man, asking him how it feels to be on the wrong side of the law and for the Jester to be wearing a sheriff’s badge? Jack O’Lantern flies over Spider-Man on a flight-device, as he tosses some gas down towards Spider-Man, and exclaims ‘Man. You gotta see who we’re hanging out with now, Petey. Jester and me, we’re finally on the A-List!’
‘Oh, baby! This is just too awesome for words!’ Jester shouts as he tosses a yo-yo at Peter, which explodes as it smacks into Peter’s chest. ‘You want fries with that, honey?’ Jester asks he smashes Peter to the side of the sewer. Jack O’Lantern bares down over Spider-Man, grabbing him by the neck the third-rate villain exclaims that this seemed like such a bum deal at first, working for S.H.I.E.L.D., forced to do what they say. ‘But when word from the top says “kick the crap outta Spider-Man” Well, what can we do? We’re only obeying orders, right?’
Jack O’Lantern forces Peter up against the wall of the sewer as Pete, badly wounded, replies that he just wanted to do the right thing, before asking the villains if they know his girlfriend died of a broken neck. The villains ignore Pete’s comment, and Jack O’Lantern suggests they have some fun with him while he is still stoned from the gas-bomb. But someone from S.H.I.E.L.D. radios to the villains, telling them that if they lay a finger on Spider-Man they will get five thousand volts. ‘You really think we’re gonna let you freaks run around without a leash?’ the agents asks, before telling them that S.H.I.E.L.D. support is on its way, so they just need to cuff Spider-Man and sit tight.
‘Spoilsport’ mumbles Jester, when suddenly, two bullets are fired, one smashes Jack O’Lantern’s pumpkin-head open, and the other hits Jester in the side of his head. ‘What the Hell? we’ve lost visual!’ the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents remark. Spider-Man cowers, thinking he is in trouble, until he realizes that he knows this mysterious rescuer. ‘I know you, skull-face guy…I know you from way back, don’t I?’
Meanwhile, on the 32nd Street, S.H.I.E.L.D. vehicles race past an alley, where a woman and a man, both with black hair, are standing The woman asks her companion if he thinks they saw them. ‘Even if they did, what’s there to see? We’re not the Human Torch and the Invisible Woman anymore - we’re Mr and Mrs Landau and we’re out for a midnight stroll!’ Johnny replies to Susan.
Approaching a door, Susan remarks that she is still annoyed that Fury couldn’t find them any brother and sister identities. ‘Pretending we’re a couple is the creepiest thing I’ve ever done!’ Johnny asks Susan how she thinks he feels. ‘You look like my last date’s grandmother!’ before remarking that their disguises let them get out there to help people, which is what is important.
The heroic siblings enter a large meeting room, where Captain America and his “Secret Avengers” are all sitting. Black Mamba, currently of Bad Girls Inc and formerly of the Serpent Society, goes to the door and tells everyone to take it easy, as it is Johnny and Sue back from a mission. Luke Cage asks the Storms’ if they heard what happened to Cloak and Dagger. ‘No. What happened?’ Johnny asks. Captain America informs them that Tandy and Tyrone got busted over atQueens, which means their Baxter Building raid needs to be revised, as he was counting on Cloak for his teleportation abilities.
The badly injured Cap slams a fist down on the table, ‘Damn S.H.I.E.L.D. units!’ he exclaims, remarking that they have lost a man for every one they have gained over these past few days. Hulkling of the Young Avengers suggests that he could raid the Fantastic Four’s files, shape-shifting into one of their staff and waltzing through security with no problems. Cap informs Hulkling that he has a bigger job for him in Arizona, before announcing that the Invisible Woman already has an equally pressing assignment.
The usually quiet Bonita Juarez, better known as the uber-powerful Firebird asks Captain America what could be bigger than stealing the plans for the Negative Zone Prison? ‘We get in there and free our people, and this starts looking like a fair fight again!’ the former Avenger exclaims. ‘Why the Hell does he call it Number Forty-Two anyway?’ Rachel Leighton a.k.a. Diamondback asks. ‘Knowing Tony Stark it will have something to do with his mother’ Sue replies.
Suddenly, the door opens, and Frank Castle a.k.a. the Punisher stands there, holding a bloody Spider-Man, the anti-hero shouts ‘Get me a medic! NOW!’ Sam Wilson a.k.a. the Falcon is shocked to see the Punisher, while Captain America calls out to Dr. Jane Foster and Linda “Night Nurse” Carter. Punisher carries Spider-Man over to the med-room, and Jane asks what happened to him. Punisher replies that Spider-Man has multiple fractures and has sustained serious blood loss thanks to Tony Stark and his buddies, adding that Peter seems to have ingested some kind of hallucinogen at the same time.
Several of the other heroes enter the med-lab also, and Ultra Girl exclaims ‘Iron Man? I thought Spidey was so far up his butt you couldn’t see his feet anymore’. ‘Yeah, well, he’s on our side now!’ Punisher exclaims, to which the Falcon asks the Punisher what he means by that. ‘Since when were you on this team?’. ‘Since the other guys started enlisting known thieves and multiple killers!’ Castle replies. Monica Rambeau a.k.a. Pulsar of Nextwave: Agents of H.A.T.E. and formerly the Avenger known as Photon asks if she is the only one laughing her guts out at the irony of this.
Punisher asks who they think has been running around in a ski mask these past few weeks, covering their backs. ‘Way I see it, you people need all the help you can get!’ the Human Torch asks why they don’t just call up Hannibal Lecter and ask if he is available too. ‘Because Hannibal Lecter hasn’t got the black ops training to get you into the Baxter Building!’ the Punisher replies. Dr. Walter Newell a.k.a. Stingray, a former member of the Avengers exclaims ‘Please tell me we aren’t so far gone that we’re signing up the Punisher!’
Luke Cage tells Cap that this is his call, and asks if they hand Punisher over to the cops or do they hear out what he has to say. Cap just tells Cage to be quiet, as he is thinking. In an adjacent room though, Greer Grant Nelson a.k.a. Tigra sits in the shadows, listening to her former friends and teammates, while she records their conversations for the Pro-Registration team!
Meanwhile, in Hell’s Kitchen, Danny Rand a.k.a. the new Daredevil is led away by several S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, and Reed Richards a.k.a. Mr. Fantastic, and Jennifer Walters a.k.a. the She-Hulk, a renowned lawyer, and former member of the Fantastic Four stand as the former Iron Fist is led away. Reed remarks that this is horrible. ‘The public’s behind us, the government’s behind us. Crime is at an all-time low. Why are our own people the only ones causing problems?’ Reed asks.
Regretfully, Mr. Fantastic remarks that sometimes he wishes they’d never got involved. ‘Do you ever stop to think how much easier things would be if we hadn’t spliced Thor’s DNA with Hank Pym’s cyber-tech?’ he asks. ‘If we didn’t have this big final battle planned with all those Thunderbolts lunatics? Hank wouldn’t be doped up on anti-depressants and my darling Sue would never have left’.
‘Maybe not’ Jennifer tells Reed, before pointing out that that public opinion would have forced S.H.I.E.L.D. to bring down every super hero in America. ‘People were sick of sixteen year old kids blowing up buildings, Reed. You guys gave us all a future!’ Jennifer tells her friend, trying to comfort him.
Meanwhile, in Ryker’s Island Penitentiary, flanked by agents, Tony Stark leads Daredevil to the dimensional portal to take him to Number Forty-Two. Stark tells Rand that he has to understand why they are doing this. ‘We don’t take any pleasure in hunting down our friends!’ Tony assures him. Tony explains that they are backing these reforms because the only other option is a complete ban on all super heroes, and nobody wants that to happen.
The group walk through the gateway and enter the Negative Zone as Tony explains that their big idea is to have fifty super teams spread over all fifty states, each one licensed and accountable to the taxpayer. ‘It’s the next step in super human evolution: a federal force from coast to coast!’ Tony reveals to Rand that he has been working on this for months, creating new super heroes and revamping anyone who wants to join. He assures Daredevil that he would be at the top of their list if he was interested, and could even have his own team.
Motioning around to the sprawling Number Forty-Two complex, Tony remarks ‘Nobody wants to put you in jail’, before asking Daredevil if they can talk. One of the agents tells Stark that Daredevil has barely said a word since they brought him in, but that they did find this silver dollar under his tongue. ’He said he’s been saving it for you’ another agent reveals as he hands the dollar to Stark, who replies ’A silver dollar? I don’t understand’.
‘Guess that’s thirty-one pieces of silver you’ve got now, huh?’ Daredevil remarks sternly before being led away, leaving a perplexed Stark behind. ‘Sleep well, Judas’ Daredevil calls back.