“Tony, I’m serious. That’s the seventh new one this year. We’ve got to do something about this.”
“Steve, honestly, my hands are tied. I don’t know what to do about it, and quite frankly, I’m sick of being the one that always has to come up with the problem-solving ideas around here. I don’t hear you making any suggestions for how to fix it.”
Steve frowned and his forehead creased for a moment as he contemplated their options. “If we just recruited them, then they wouldn’t turn into criminals,” he finally said.
Tony rolled his eyes. “First of all, you don’t know that. Second of all, the board would never go for that.”
Steve threw his hands up in the air, incredibly frustrated at the mere mention of the board.
“Why wouldn’t they go for it? We recruit new members all the time.”
“Not enhanced ones, we don’t. And as I said, you can’t guarantee they won’t turn evil anyway, and then you have enemies working inside your own team.”
“But we run the same risk of that with non-enhanced people, Tony,” Steve complained. Arguing proper superhero protocol felt like running in maddening circles.
“But non-enhanced ones are less dangerous.”
“You mean, like you?”
Tony rolled his eyes for the second time in five minutes. “Sorry, what I meant was non-enhanced people without access to arc reactors and nano-technology.”
Steve finally sat down opposite Tony across the man’s desk. He felt utterly defeated by everything about the Avengers these days. “We recruited Wanda and Bucky and Vision. They haven’t turned evil, and they are all huge assets to the team.”
“None of those situations were cut-and-dry, nor were they really a form of recruitment. Not to mention, we’re working in a different time now. The rules aren’t the same anymore, Cap. You know that.”
“Tony, I really think this is something we need to do. Every one of these enhanced individuals turns to crime because they feel like they have no other option. We give them a better option, and the crime will stop. We recruit them, make them the good guys before they ever even consider turning bad.”
The man opened up his desk drawer and pulled out a bottle of vodka. He let the room remain silent as he refilled the glass that had probably been sitting on his desk, unwashed, for god knows how many days. Eventually, he brought the glass to his lips and took a long swig before saying, “Steve, I understand where you’re coming from, I really do… but you’re preaching to the choir. I have no pull anymore. Everything we do is out of my hands. If you want something to change, want something new to happen with this team, you have to present it to the board.”
Steve leaned forward in earnest, elbows resting on his knees and hands clasped under his chin. “Well, that’s why I’m talking to you, isn’t it? You’re the one that always takes the new suggestions to the board. Can’t you do the same with this?”
There was the third eye-roll since Steve had been in this office. “I’m always the one to take the suggestions to the board because I’m always the one to come up with the suggestions. This one was all yours, Capsicle, so you can present it.”
Steve lowered his hands and ran his fingers through his hair. “But I don’t even know where to start. I’m more of a ‘go with my gut because it’s always done the right thing’ sort of soldier. I can’t spin some grand tale of how a new recruitment program will make the world a better place.”
“Sure you can. Just brush up a bit on some ethical terms, and write down a few notes. You’ll have them eating out of the palm of your hands.”
“Ethical terms,” Steve said with the utmost vitriol in his voice, “That’s the problem, isn’t it? Does no one just know the right thing to do anymore without having to spend hours in a debate deciding how to define what’s good and what’s bad? Back in my day—”
“I’m gonna stop you right there, buddy. You’re only allowed to use the ‘back in my day’ phrase once per year, and you’ve already met your quota for this one. Times have evolved a lot since the forties Mr. America, and you better get with it because the Avengers are evolving too, and we can’t afford to lose our dashing leader just because he’s made sworn enemies with the government instated Ethics Board.”
Steve let out a pathetic sigh in a last attempt to make Tony feel sorry for him and offer to do the presentation.
“Not gonna happen,” Tony said after another swig of vodka. “Now, if you don’t mind, I’ve got some business to attend to.” He was gesturing toward the door, which he clearly wanted Steve to walk out of promptly.
Hours later, Steve was in his room, pen hovering over a blank notebook page as FRIDAY recited various moral principles and ethical theories that might pertain to Steve’s situation. He had no idea where to even begin in presenting a case to an ethics board. He hadn’t even met any of the members since they had been here for the past six months.
Many of his fellow team members thought the board was a reasonable compromise to the Accords. Steve felt it was equally as constricting as the Accords had been. Sure, they didn’t have to get direct permission from the US government to do things anymore; instead, they had to waste their time convincing a panel of ethics professors to vote in favor of whatever they needed to do in order to save lives.
“FRIDAY,” he said, interrupting her ethical lectures, “what can you tell me about each of the board members?”
“There’s Donny Crestwell. Age sixty-three. Harvard graduate. Professor of ethical theory for thirty years…” and she went on, listing all thirteen of the members, most of which were old men that Steve thought might be able to understand his line of thinking. He was technically an old man himself, after all. As she spoke, FRIDAY displayed the faces of the individuals on his computer screen. When she came to the final member, Steve was surprised to see a young woman. FRIDAY told him that she was thirty-one and had only taught ethical theory at Cornell for three years before transferring here. Her name was Y/N. She was beautiful, and Steve instantly became a hundred times more nervous to stand up in front of that board and say his piece in a couple of days.