While the citizens of the Earth continued to relax after the Olympian Gods had nearly destroyed them, the Avengers remained as vigilant as ever.
In an attempt to learn information Deadpool had about the operations of Nathaniel Essex, the Stand had previously stolen $18,000 from the mercenary’s bank account. He then set FAITH to monitor that bank account’s activity in an attempt to find Deadpool. The mentally unbalanced mercenary was harder to track than the Stand anticipated, and Deadpool had his own plan to get his money back.
Deadpool used a large amount of C-4 plastic explosive to assault a branch of the bank that the Stand had used to facilitate the unauthorized transfer of the $18,000. He took 24 hostages, and after issuing a series of demands on construction paper written in crayon, he began releasing them using a game of “Battleship,” which he played with the negotiators. The Avengers were called in, and went inside to get control of the situation.
The Stand attempted to argue with Deadpool that when he had offered him 20,000, he had never specifically said it would be dollars; Deadpool made a counter proposal that if he wasn’t paid, he’d blow up the hostages. The Stand used his powers over matter to transform a wooden table into gold kruggerands, and the debt was settled.
Deadpool charged the Avengers fifty dollars for the additional information he had regarding Essex; the mad geneticist had at least two other hidden laboratories (locations unknown) and that he had managed to save at least one of the strange, monstrous creatures that he had created, which could duplicate the power of anything they had consumed (which, at one point, had included Deadpool’s arm).
The Avengers decided that, despite Deadpool’s belief that he had been wronged, taking a number of hostages in a bank and covering them with C4 was not an offense they could just ignore. Using a small-range EMP device of his design, the Stand disarmed all the detonators, and Deadpool grumpily, but peacefully, was taken into custody.
One Week Earlier
Kate Young, a 22 year old waitrees, was chained to a wall, a gag in her mouth. She was tired, cold, and terrified. An IV drip was attached to her arm. In the room with her was a metal surgical table, on which lay Donald Carson, covered with a towel but chained to the table, breathing in anesthesia gas through a mask being held over his face. The man holding the mask was a thin, gaunt man, dressed in surgical scrubs; the Surgeon. Once the victim was unconscious, the Surgeon began marking up the body with a marker, and described out loud and in detail the different incisions and amputation techniques that he was going to perform.
The Surgeon picked up the scalpel, about to make an incision on Donald’s knee, and Kate whimpered in fear and looked away. The Surgeon roared “NO”, and rushed to her. He grabbed her jaw and pulled her face so she looked directly at him. He held the scalpel in his other hand, threatening to cut her face. “Don’t look away,” he commanded. He motioned to Donald with the scalpel, and his eyes seemed to soften, almost with compassion. “He can’t feel this! He won’t feel any of this! He’s never going to wake up! His pain is over.” Then, as quickly as they had softened, his eyes became cruel points. “But you,” he snarled. “You have to watch! You have to see what happens to him. You need to know what I do to him!” He moved his masked mouth against her ear, and she felt his garlicky breath on her cheek. He whispered, “you have to watch, because you’re next!”
Justice was in contact with Doc Holly Day. A serial killer, one who left body parts (and sometimes torsos with heads) had killed several victims, and toxicology reports suggested that the victims were alive while they were dismembered. Justice was unable to find any evidence to track him down, and called on her friend to help her search. Justice indicated that she was growing a bit sweet on Steam, and Doc invited the young hero to join them on the search.
For hours the heroes searched the darkened streets of New York City, from Borough to Borough, going over the sites that the body parts had been left in an attempt to find additional clues. While comparing crime scenes to police photos, Doc Holly Day noticed something peculiar; the body may have been randomly scattered across the city, but the parts all pointing to a specific area of the Bronx. This location, half a city block of dilapidated buildings, included a City Morgue that hadn’t been used in thirty years.
Doc Holly Day used her telepathic ability and located the minds of three people in the basement; one sleeping, one awake and terrified, and one predatory. The heroes split up, with Justice taking one stairwell down and Steam and Doc taking the second. Doc and Steam came across the Surgeon’s operating room first. Steam disarmed the Surgeon with a targeting blast of fire, and then Doc subdued him. The victim they had saved from being dismembered was Kate Young. The person chained to the wall was a young man, Roger Anderson. Both victims were physically unharmed.
Justice entered the room and asked Doc for permission to kill the Surgeon. Sorely tempted, Doc relied on her morality, and instead called the police. As he was being taken into custody, the Surgeon stared at Doc’s face. “You have beautiful eyes. You’ll make a wonderful Watcher.” Doc Holly Day asked the NYPD’s lead detective on scene, Detective Mario Belletonio, to have copies of all psychological evaluations of the Surgeon sent to her for her review.
While researching the Legend of the Black Mask near the city of Reims in France, Vessel stumbled across a camouflaging force-field. He called in for some support from the Avengers, and FAITH used the Vigilance’s teleporter to transport the Stand, Nightingale and Nu to Vessel’s location. While unable to get a proper energy reading from the force-field, the Stand recognized it as technology they had encountered only once before; technology used by Kang the Conqueror.
Vessel was able to use his energy absorption powers to open a small hole in the force-field, and the Avengers went within. There, they saw six figures and a variety of unrecognizable technology. Four of the figures were humanoid robots. The remaining two were revealed to be Kang and Ghost.
After some obnoxious and haughty claims by Kang, Ghost flew into action, using his phase-shifting powers to strike at the Avengers. The Avengers quickly dispatched the robots, but found Ghost and Kang more difficult. While Nu confronted the self-named Conqueror, the others tried to deal with Ghost. His intangibility left him immune to most of their attacks, and he managed to strike Nu, Nightingale and Vessel. His attacks were not devastating, his hand passing though their bodies, but he did make them feel as if they had the “wind” knocked out of them, like their internal systems had a spasm.
Nu found that Kang’s personal force-field was stronger than it was the first time they fought. Kang ignored Nu’s attempts to strike him, but he learned that one does not ignore the granddaughter of Heracles. With the might of Olympus, Nu crushed Kang’s force-field and demolished his armor, removing it from his stupefied body like one would peel a shrimp.
Fearful that the Black Mask legend pertained to him, the Stand managed to avoid getting hit by Ghost until the local lighting was shut down, trapping the heroes in total darkness. Ghost took advantage of this and struck the Stand, before flying up above and disappearing. Kang, now powerless, was going to be locked up. Vessel opened a hole in the force field, through which Nightingale carried Kang. Once she was outside, she called SHIELD to prepare them for a new prisoner delivery, when Vessel’s ability to hold open the force-field abruptly weakened, and he knew he was barely able to hold open a small opening. The other Avengers felt their own abilities begin to feel drained. Knowing she could not teleport through the force-field if it were closed, Nightingale quickly teleported in through the hole. She had hoped to gather all the Avengers together to free them before Vessel’s could no longer hold open the exit, but the Avengers were too scattered and she was unable to release any of them.
Realizing that Ghost was still somewhere inside the force-field, the Stand once again proved himself to be the smartest man on the planet by using the futuristic technology to craft a one-shot device that would force Ghost back into phase with everyone else. While Ghost described that Kang had planned for their interference and hired him to trap the Avengers in the ancient past after being powerless, Ghost de-cloaked Kang’s Timeship and started the process to transport the Avengers backwards in time. At this point, the Stand blasted Ghost with the phase-shifting cannon, and Ghost fell to the ground. He cried out just as the Timeship performed as commanded.
The Avengers, along with Ghost, suddenly found themselves over 1,600 years before their time.