Should Be

A tale of the Avengers.

Historian's note: Takes place during Avengers (v.3) #38.

Sparks fly off the side of the glass tube. This isn't right, it should've worked.

It should've worked as the other attempts should've. I should be able to rig this and patch that, connect disconnected circuits and exchange pieces and parts. I should be able to build something, do something, try something that will break this prison, or at least get a message through, get help if I can't do it myself.

And I should be able to do it.

I float in strangely colored liquid like an insect in a jar, with all the power of an insect over my fate. Ways of escape just out of my reach, I see them outside as luring as though I could get to them and get out. And once I'm out, destroy this place, wreck the machines and tear apart the things that keep this place hidden. Then get to the Mansion, get to my Jan, the team, and finally end this nightmare.

And it has to be a nightmare, it cannot be really happening. I can't be floating here, helpless. I couldn't have been struck down, taken away and imprisoned. Not by him.

He of all people couldn't have done this to me.

I'm not a novice anymore, not a young aspiring hero starting out. I'm not crazy, I'm not crazy anymore, I'm thinking clearly now, clearer than I have in years. I'm not crazy, I'm not a tool, not a pawn, no one should be able to do this to me. He shouldn't be able to do this to me. I've defeated the Masters of Evil, single-handedly and on my own. I've defeated Ultron, and I've defeated death. And I've defeated him.

And of all things, he's the one who came back with a vengeance.

I shouldn't be here now. Grab for the wire, catch that tube, try again, certainly something can break me out. I'm a scientist, and a hero and an Avenger, and I shouldn't be here, I can't be here.

Now, he comes.

He walks with such confidence I could throttle him. I suppose. I suppose he walks like this around the Mansion, too, joking with my teammates, why not, battling alongside them, and Jan.

I can't bear the thought of him touching my Janet. He's already hurt her once - only that then, it was me.

He looked pleased. "Howdy, doc, how's it hangin' today? Comfy?"


We exchange a few empty words. I don't think he realized yet that I know who he is. Never mind that it's impossible. Never mind. A man knows himself. Some things, a man just doesn't forget, some things a man can recognize anywhere.

I know myself, and this. was.

"I'm an Avenger," he says, quietly, I barely hear him speak "and Avengers don't kill."

He walks out, and I can't ignore it, can't surpress it anymore. I bang the cold, solid glass walls with impotent, explosive fury.

"You're not an Avenger! Do you hear me? You're not an Avenger! I'm the Avenger! I am! You never were - !"

I bang and shout until my voice is hoarse and my hands ache. I shout at him like a madman.

Like a madman.

I'm not crazy, I'm all right, now. I'm an Avenger, I can handle those things. I've been in tougher situations. I shouldn't snap, I shouldn't be bursting like this. I shouldn't be despairing. I'm an Avenger, and I'll find a way out and he can't keep me here. Not him. I'll get out, I'll find a way, I must find a way, because I can, I'm an Avenger, and I'm not crazy, not anymore.

I'll get out, and then I'll fight him, defeat him. I can see myself doing it, I'll slam him down to the floor, tell him to get out of the Mansion, not to touch my Janet.

I'll get out, I'll defeat him, he'll be gone, out of my life, and everything will work out just at it should Everything has been working out. The team, me and Jan, defeating Ultron (like I did, like a can, like I should be able to). Everything will work out, I know. If I could just get out and get my hands on him.

And I should be able to. I grab for the tube and wire again, examine them. There must be a way. There's always a way. He can't keep me here, keep me away, he can't do it. He has no hold on me, he should have no hold on me. He's gone, he's been gone, everything he did is gone, resolved, over, a part of a past life just barely.

Not mine.

I can see him now and he's a different person. He isn't me. He isn't me. And I was never him. We're different people, different men, none of us related to the other. I'm not him. He's crazy, he's dangerous, he's careless and boastful and not at all heroic. He isn't me, we're two different people.

And only one of us is in a glass tube.

He's not me. He has no hold on me. I'll break out, I can break out, there's no doubt that I will break out, there never was a doubt. I defeated the Masters of Evil, me, I've defeated Ultron, I've defeated death itself. Me. And I've defeated him.

And I can defeat him again.

That's how it should be.