After last issue’s events, our heroes did some investigating, to see what was happening, and why they were attacked.
Invisible Woman and Namor the Sub-Mariner secured the Baxter Building, making sure that the AIM Agents that they fought were no longer a threat, and examining MODOK, only to realize that the mental energy which was powering the gem in his head has dissipated, leaving an empty husk behind. While they secured the interior of the building, the AIM Stealth Saucer that had initially landed there managed to slip away.
Meanwhile, on the SHIELD Helicarrier, Beast and Hawkeye are recovering from the controlled crash into the Xavier Academy and trying to figure out what happened. Clay Quartermain finds them and walks them to a debriefing room for a meeting with Jasper Sitwell, SHIELD’s top scientist, so that he and Dr. McCoy can compare notes. It turns out that an analysis of Wolverine’s DNA shows that he was actually clinically dead for several hours, a state that should not be possible given his mutant healing factor.
“When you’ve eliminated probably answers, you are compelled to consider the improbable,” says Sitwell, “and after a through analysis, we’re highly confident that the explanation is… magic.”
Hawkeye is thoroughly unimpressed by this conclusion, but a quick double-check by Beast has him confirming Sitwell’s ‘diagnosis’, and they are considering what to do next when SHIELD Deputy Director Maria Hill informs Hawkeye that the attack on the Helicarrier was part of a coordinated assault on SHIELD and other secure facilities across the country:
Hydrobase was assaulted by a team of AIM agents led by the Atlantean rebel known as Attuma. SHIELD super-agent Stingray is missing and presumed compromised. Hydro-Base itself is in bad shape, split and slowly sinking into the South Atlantic.
The attack on the Baxter Building by AIM.
The attempted sabotage of Star Towers by Hydra and the Titanium Man.
The attack by The Hand and Wolverine on the Helicarrier.
An incident at Pym Innovations in CA, where [[Dr. Henry Pym]] is missing and presumed compromised as well.
A massive attack on Matt Murdock’s New York apartment by The Hand and whomever was leading them. Murdock is missing, but Hill says she has reason to believe he successfully escaped the attack.
There may have been other raids, SHIELD is attempting to gather information, but have no other leads yet.
After consultation between the various parties still standing, Hill tells Stark that it’s time to step up; with the Fantastic Four disbanded, the X-Men otherwise occupied with serious business, and Captain Marvel off-world dealing with a serious situation, Hill needs help, and she needs it now. Tony makes a decision and soon after stopping by the Baxter Building to take possession of MODOK for safe keeping, all five heroes are in Stark Tower, where Tony reveals to all of them that he is Iron Man, and makes a case that they need to come together to deal with whatever menace this is.
After the initial shock wears off, and truces are made, the group discusses what to do next. After examining their full range of options, they elect to fly to California to investigate the Pym situation, but not before Beast and Iron Man put their heads together to try and devise a device to dampen any probability-altering ‘magic’ they may encounter on the mission.
They load aboard a SHIELD Tri-Jet and head West, arriving in a few hours.
Pym Innovations has a SHIELD team surrounding it, locking it down for inspection. Dr. Pym has his own lab, separate from the rest of the staff working for him in the building, and that seems to be where the assault happened. There is a large hole cracked in the side of the building, as if something smashed explosively out from inside, probably Dr. Pym himself.
The team onsite reveals that Pym is missing, but no one else in the building was harmed, though the contents of his labs were rifled and there’s materials and data missing. The heroes enter to investigate, and uncover some clues (including a recording of AIM’s subtle attack on the building) before they uncover a small, tracked robot that Stark knows to be Pym’s Ultron Project, but that politely asks to be referred to as ‘Henry’. A discussion with ‘Henry’ reveals that he did not witness the actual kidnapping, but that he would be happy to help the heroes try and find his ‘father’ if they can complete the work of putting him into the ‘new exoskeleton’ his father has constructed for him, which he helpfully notifies them is located in the secure vault.
Assuming this may have been one of AIM’s actual targets, the heroes enter the Secure Lab that leads to Pym’s vault, which instantly activates a programmed batch of Pym Particles that cover several small polymer figures on the lab table. As they grow to large size (roughly 8’, with roughly human proportions), the heroes attack.
Hawkeye’s EMP arrow blasts all of them, doing quite a bit of damage to at least one of them, it smokes and bubbles as it tries to recover, though the sparking seems to end more quickly than it should.
Iron Man follows up, smashing into one of them at full speed, but it rolls with his blow and as Tony recovers for another attack, it flows and morphs into a shape like his armor, colored a dull and greyish palette of his armor’s red and gold. Its arms clearly grow and strengthen to mimic the strength of his armor.
Namor growls and steps forward to smash one of the robots, but it meets his strongest blow with crossed arms that ripple and flow to form into the shape of his, its skin tinting blue and scaly like his fighting suit.
Hawkeye utters a curse, “Oh, expletive, Adaptoids!”, recognizing the robots from a SHIELD profile on experimental anti-mutant technology he was briefed on some months ago.
As the faceless and silent guardians turn towards the heroes, they ready themselves for a counter-attack…
CONTINUED NEXT ISSUE!