Tony Stark sat at the conference table looking at the faces projected onto the screen in front of him. All of them were friends at best, colleagues at worst. And the news Steve Rogers was delivering about them was disturbing to say the least.
“How long did you say again?” Tony asked.
“Three months,” Steve said. “All ten of these Avengers have been missing for a minimum of at least three months. Five at the longest.”
“And who’s that?”
“The Vision. The original, not Jonah.”
Tony leaned forward onto the table, his arms folded. “Honestly, this kind of confuses me Steve,” he said, motioning to the screen. “Why are you calling out these ten? At last count Rhodey, Pym and Nat were all missing, but they’re not here.”
“They’re on a SHIELD assignment,” he said. Tony looked at the SHIELD Director, raised his eyebrow, then back to the screen.
“And Hank McCoy?”
“All of the X-Men are off the grid, but I have sources confirming they’re still in play.”
“And how did we find this out?” he asked. “Why tell me today?”
“What do you think Tony?” he said. “You send out feelers for the Academy, you don’t reach one of them, we check on all of them. Between your status as Chairman Emeritus of the Avengers and with the Academy opening publically today, I thought it was your right to know.”
“And there’s no trace of any of them?”
“None,” Steve said. “Every one of them is completely missing.”
“Does Carol or Sam know?”
“Not yet,” Steve said. “The two of them have been fighting so hard to establish the East Coast branch, I don’t want them to feel burdened with this.”
“Damn,” Tony muttered.
Vision, Tigra, Quicksilver, Wonder Man, Demolition Man, Rage, Jocasta, Firestar, Justice and Quasar. A group of prominent Avengers. All missing.
“What the hell are we going to do about it?”
By Tony Thornley
LOS ANGELES, THREE HOURS LATER
“This is Trish Tilby of GNN from the site of the new Avengers Academy just outside of Malibu, California!” Tilby spoke loudly, clamoring to hear herself over the din of everything happening around her. There were at least twenty-five other news reporters gathered outside the gates of the academy, formerly one of Howard Stark’s mansions, ranging from local networks, all the way up to national news. Outside of the media, a heightened security presence was gathered, a mixture of plainclothes, local uniforms and the navy and silver uniforms of SHIELD. Trish had hoped to see a glimpse of a helicarrier or Director Steve Rogers, but no luck.
“Stay with us today as we interview new students and staff of the superhero training facility, as well as cover the public press conference that will follow. Stay tuned to GNN throughout the day!”
Tony turned off the parabolic mic in his armor and turned back to Wanda and Clint. Both of the veterans were in full uniform, watching the students and staff arrive. The academy was staffed with both heroes and a high caliber teaching staff. It was truly meant to be a school, and not just a superhero training facility.
“So the meeting with Steve didn’t go well,” Wanda asked, turning back to the meeting room conference table. Tony shook his head.
“We at least have some sort of answer,” Clint said still watching. “It’s not a good answer, but we know something’s up, and that means we can do something about it.”
“The question is what can we do?” Tony asked, holding his hand up. “I mean, no trace means no clue. All we can do is back track their steps. But that’s only what they logged with us, or were seen publically doing. In the case of Dennis, who was always holed up in his garage, or Vision, who’s pretty private when he’s not active, that’s going to be impossible.”
“So we start with who we can,” Wanda said. “Pietro. Simon. Wendell?”
Tony paused for a moment. Earlier, he hadn’t caught the connection, but a third of the missing group was intimately tied to Wanda herself. Something to explore later, perhaps. There were plenty of grudges against her out in the world.
“So who’s going to be on the active team then?” Clint asked. “I mean we have X-51, Hellcat here.”
“Tom Foster, Scott, Firebird, Living Lightning too,” Wanda offered.
“Jen and Jan would both join up if we asked, even with Jan’s responsibilities as headmistress.”
Tony nodded. “I’ve extended invites, and had a team accept.” He tapped the edge of the conference table and six holograms appeared over the table’s surface. The other two studied the images carefully.
“So half veteran, half new blood,” Wanda said with an approving tone.
“I wouldn’t call him new blood,” Clint said, pointing to one.
Wanda laughed. “That’s fair, but I approve. Good choices Tony.”
“What are we going to do about the missing in the meantime?” Wanda mused.
“Everyone but D-Man was a veteran,” Tony said. “And Dennis going missing just feels like something personally directed towards Steve. So we open the school, then we investigate.” He looked back out at the crowd. “Let’s reconvene after the ribbon cutting.”
“We appreciate all of you being here today,” Wanda said from the dias. “When I first put on my costume, Earth’s superhuman population was only in the double digits. We were a minority, but a terrifying minority of unimaginable power.” She sighed. “Now superhumans number in the millions. Although many of those are generally harmless mutants, we find new alpha level superhumans are being born every day. We have sat back too long, with minimal involvement in training these young people.”
She turned and motioned to the building behind her. “The Vernon Van Dyne Academy is a fully operational school for young superhumans still of middle to high school age. It is also a training facility for all superhumans no matter their age or ability. The school is staffed by fully trained and accredited staff, while the training facilities are staffed with former Avengers, law enforcement and military. For the first time, the Avengers will be overseeing the training of new superhumans on this scale.”
Tony stood towards the back of the dias, watching and listening. His mind was still on his missing teammates. Every possibility was running through his head. An unknown assassin of some type could be working their way through the Avengers. They could have been recruited to stop some alien menace across the stars. It could have been Master Pandemonium, out for revenge on Wanda again. The fact that he could consider so many possibilities was even more worrying than the problem at hand.
“And in addition to the Academy, the grounds will be home to a full-time team of Avengers. I’m going to turn the time over to the Chairman Emeritus of the Avengers organization, Tony Stark, to unveil their membership!”
She stepped to the side and waved Tony forward. He shook his head, and mentally commanded his helmet to open. The face shield retracted first, before the magnetic tiles that made up the helmet disassembled and retracted entirely. He smiled and waved to the crowd of reporters.
“Thank you Wanda,” he said. “We really appreciate you filling in for Headmistress Van Dyne, who was stuck in New York last night. Ladies and gentlemen…” He paused, and took a deep breath. “The Avengers have long stood as a symbol of hope for people across the globe. While our team on the eastern coast is establishing itself as a force for good on its own, we are formally establishing this team today as a PERMANENT fixture on the western coast of the United States, and the first step in establishing the Avengers as a global presence, in conjunction with SHIELD, the United Nations, and regional governments such as the US, Russia, Wakanda, Japan, Symkaria, the UK and other members of the European Union. And now without any further ado, I give you your new Avengers.”
Above them, the cargo door of one of the hovering SHIELD transports open. A repulsor-powered platform emerged and began to descend towards the stage. Wanda turned to Tony and raised an eyebrow. He smirked and shrugged.
“You’re already met the team’s field leader, Wanda Maximoff, the Scarlet Witch.” Wanda’s jaw dropped slightly. “Wanda is perhaps the longest serving Avenger outside myself and Steve Rogers, and I would trust my life with her. Joining her in the leadership role is Clint Barton, also known as Hawkeye.”
Clint leaned over the edge of the platform, and fired an arrow with a line attached to it into the ground below. He jumped from the platform and used his bow to slide down the line to the stage. He landed next to Wanda and gave his long-time friend a peck on the cheek.
“Once a showman, always a showman,” she teased.
“Congrats on the promotion, boss,” he said.
“Your idea?” He nodded and winked.
“Joining them is a team of veteran heroes, some with long-time experience with the Avengers, and some new to the team- Ant-Man, Stature, the Blue Marvel, Ms. America, Hulkling and Dazzler!” The platform reached the ground, landing next to them. “I will be keeping my active status with the team as well, as we move forward with a new era of the Aveng-”
Tony felt a sudden hard impact in his back, then intense pain. He looked down and massive blade was sticking out of his armor, just between his left collarbone and the arc reactor in his chest. He attempted to take a breath, but the blade had puncture his lung. His eyes widened, and he felt the blade suddenly pull itself from his chest. He fell to the ground, losing consciousness.
The Scarlet Centurion stood tall where Tony had, his lance glowing bright with temporal energy. Five others flanked him.
“This is no new era!” the armored warrior bellowed. “In the name of my father, Kang the Conqueror, this moment is the time that the era of the Avengers will END!”
Wanda jumped into action.
“Stature, Hulkling!” she exclaimed. “Get Iron Man to the medbay! The rest of you-”
“Love this part,” Clint whispered.
“AVENGERS ASSEMBLE!” Wanda blasted the Centurion with a hex bolt, shorting out his armor just long enough for Hawkeye to hit him twice with arrows.
“Not just arrows. Explosive arrows. Boom.”
The two arrowheads exploded, sending the Centurion on the ground. Wanda spun to the rest of the team.
“America- get the civilians out of here!” America Chavez dodged a blow from the Growing Man and punched the massive purple and gold android in the stomach before nodding. A star-shaped portal appeared beneath her, and she stomped it, dropping through it to the edge of the crowd.
Cassie Lang was already two stories tall as she scooped up Iron Man. One of the Centurion’s companions, a Amazonian woman who stood at least eight feet tall, rushed towards her. A bladed energy weapon grew from her gauntlet as she leapt, but Hulkling tackled her. His part-Skrull physiology shifted, forming an insect-like exoskeleton over his arms. He punched the woman across the face. He glanced over his shoulder at his long-time friend.
“Stature, go!” he bellowed. “I’ve got her, and I’ll cover you!”
She swung and caught him across the cheek, gashing open his cheek with her gauntlet. Teddy turned back, his teeth gritted. He stood, his fist digging into her armor.
“Not cool!” he bellowed. He spun and threw her into the sky. Blue Marvel appeared at his side. Adam Brashear wore a stripped down version of his old costume, a blue bodysuit, with a white belt and a stylized M across his chest. His black skin shone in the California sun.
“Follow your friend son,” he said. “I have her.”
Alison Blaire dodged the ax of the tall Native American man she found herself faced with. His clothing were a mixture of an ancient-looking wolf headdress, and futuristic armor. She dodged again as he thrust at her with a dagger in his other hand. She grinned and turned up the iPod on her belt.
“Dude, you don’t know who you’re messing with.” The sounds of a guitar solo filled the air, and a shimmering aura surrounded Dazzler. She spun, concentrating on concentrating the light into destructive laser blasts. She blasted the man in the face, and then kicked him in the gut. She threw her hands out and blasted each of his hands, knocking his weapons away, before blasting him in the chest. She pointed her finger, held it up to her lips and blew across it.
“Piece of cake.”
Scott Lang ran around the Egyptian man wielding a spear. He enlarged himself, punching him in the jaw as he grew.
“You know, for a bunch of time travellers, you guys sure like using pointy things.” He shrunk again, landing on his foe’s shoulder. He jumped off and grew just before he reached the man’s elbow. He grabbed him as he went, forcing him to faceplant.
“I mean, I expected fancy morphing guns-” His opponent spun to face him, now holding a large alien-looking blaster. “-one like that!” He shrunk again, but was too late. The concussive blast carried him into the sky.
“No one move!” a cry came. The Avengers spun to see a woman in green and yellow armor holding one of the civilians around the neck.
“One more twitch,” she said, “and I snap her neck.”
Cassie set Tony down carefully on one of the medbay beds. Doctor Glenda Sandoval rushed to join them. Tony had regained consciousness but was fighting the pain desperately. Hulkling stood at the door, ready for any further intruders.
“I expected a black eye or maybe some stitches on my first day Mister Stark,” she said. “Not a stab wound. How do we get this armor off you?”
“Reset button on my collarbone, just under the surface plate. Doesn’t matter which, it’s on both. Hold it for four seconds.”
The doctor ran her finger under the armor plate on his right side until she found the button. She held it down, and after four seconds, there was an audible hiss. The armor began disassembling, opening up to reveal his chest.
“Holy hell Tony,” she muttered. “That’s bad.”
“Tell me about it. I had a giant energy lance in me.”
Just before Doctor Sandoval began to work on him, there was a massive flash of blue light. A moment later the light vanished, leaving nine figures standing in its place. All four of them experienced a few moments of vertigo upon seeing them. Tony felt a rush of memories return to him. He looked at the figure at the front of the group.
“John?” he said. “John Jaeger?”
“Yeah, Tony, we’re back,” Doctor Rocket responded. “The Avengers Infinity are home, and just in time it seems.”
TO BE CONTINUED!
NEXT: Confused? Well, you should be! Who are the Avengers Infinity, and what do they want?