"Are you ready for this?"
Michael Van Patrick nodded nervously. To be honest he wasn't ready. He was terrified of what lay beyond him behind that curtain. He glanced at the armored figure staring down at him.
"So... you're War Machine?" Michael asked. The man's head shook.
"Not anymore kid. That's what this whole thing is about. At the moment you call me Rhodes. When we get to the camp you call me SIR."
"Sure thing." Michael rolled his eyes.
"-And THAT ladies and gentlemen is why I'm very proud to introduce to you the latest hero in America's defense... the Iron Patriot!" A voice from beyond the curtain rang out. Rhodes carefully pushed his way out of the curtain and stepped into the light with three other figures. Michael shivered. He was the last one left. He listened carefully to the voice's every word.
"Thank you everybody for your support." Rhodes said calmly through the metallic hum of his battle suit. "If any of you were wondering NO I am NOT Captain America." Polite laughter came from the crowd. Michael smiled. "I know that many people out there will disagree with what I'm about to reveal. Whatever. It's a free country and people are entitled to their own opinion. For a few years now we've been sweeping something under the carpet. Hoping it will stay hidden. However that is no longer the case." A hush had fallen over the crowd. "Superhuman recklessness caused the Stamford incident and it is OUR duty to make sure something like that never happens again... ah yes. Ms...?"
A female reporter called out. "Mercy Liddle of the Daily Bugle. Mr Patriot are you saying that Congress is finally pushing the Super Human Registration Act?"
"Ah no. I didn't say that. We're not that serious yet. We've decided to attempt to... 'improve' the net generation of heroes." Silence allowed the words to sink in. "Which is why I'm happy to announce the new Avengers Initiative!"
Confused clapping came from the crowd. Michael heard Rhodes' armor stomping around the stage as he went to sit down.
"Yes! I know many of you may be wondering... what exactly IS the Avengers Initiative?" The voice of Tony Stark rang out. "The Avengers Initiative is a training camp created by SHIELD and supervised by members of the Avengers to help make the next generation of heroes the best they can be!"
That was Michael's cue. He took a deep breath as he stepped out onto the stage. He saw the flashing of cameras as he stepped forward and stood next to one of the world's greatest heroes.
"My name is Michael Van Patrick." Michael said calmly. His blue T-Shirt shining out off the stage. "I'm the first recruit of the Avengers Initiative." He smiled as the world smiled with him.
"It's a hit." Miriam Sharpe said with a smile. A laptop on her lap. "We have over a thousand application forms already."
Stark cracked his fingers as he sipped a glass of water.
"Good. Make sure that SHIELD's tech guys vet each and every one of them. We need to differentiate the true heroes from the terrorists trying to make an example."
Miriam sat down at the table as Stark's trusty butler Jarvis handed her a cup of tea. "That's my end of the line. With all the rookies and SHIELD agents. What about your line of the end? What did 'Earth's Mightiest Heroes' think of the whole idea?"
Stark shrugged. "Some were fine with it. Some aren't bothered. Some people completely hate the idea." He patted the bruise he'd gained from his chat with Wolverine earlier.
Miriam frowned. "Can you give me specifics? Who's on board?"
Stark closed his eyes as he thought about the situation.
"The Avengers are mostly in on the idea. I'm still searching for Hank Pym. I was hoping this would have drawn him out of wherever he's hiding but apparently not... Thor's not bothered. The Hulk's in Tokyo the last I checked. Cyclops and the X-Men are out."
"Not interested. Once I told them this was about prepping super humans for military service and not teaching them the alphabet they had Nightcrawler teleport me out of the mansion."
"Think they could be a problem?"
Stark frowned. "Possibly." He paused. "I'm not sure. How are you doing with the whole 50 State plan?"
"What happened to having everyone cramped in New York?" A voice asked.
Stark turned to see Bucky Barnes walking towards him. He stepped past Jarvis and sat down at the table.
"Barnes..." Stark said as he remembered what Rhodes had told him earlier. "I'm so sorry about Natasha..." He glanced to his right and saw Miriam mouth the words "Who's Natasha?"
Barnes didn't show any emotion. "Did you... did you catch the guy who did it?" He asked.
"It's a work in progress."
Barnes lowered his head.
"Come on." Stark stood up. "I've got something to show you." He patted Barnes on the back as he walked towards the elevator door.
"How did your mission in England go James?" Stark asked as he stood in the elevator. Barnes glanced around nervously.
"What is this Stark?!" he asked. "I came here to talk about this Initiative you've got me signed up for!"
"This..." Stark said calmly as the glass covering the elevator came into view showing the floor below. "This is the future."
Barnes looked out at the floor below. "What the hell's 42?"
"PRISON 42. Man of the past. Meet the future." Stark chuckled as the elevator doors opened up to the empty space before them.