‘Did I not promise you adventure?’ Azazel, dressed like a pirate, grins, holding a glass of wine in one hand. Red Bamfs sit on his shoulders, while an assortment of demonic pirates are gathered around him. ‘Did I not swear that you would sail the seas of the Hereafter as conquerors? That angels and demons alike would live in fear of our flag? Did I not promise you plunder? And the power that comes with it?’ he asks the pirates, telling them to look around, as these things their admiral has delivered. ‘Has he not?’ Azazel asks them. The demon pirates raise their drinks of beer and their swords, as Azazel reminds them that yesterday they were one of the damned in perdition or the lost in purgatory or the bored senseless in paradise. ‘Today you are free souls once again! Today you are the greatest pirates the Afterlife has ever known!’
Azazel continues, telling the pirates that tomorrow they will be lords of an all-new Hell. ‘You’ll be kings of your very own Heaven’ he adds. ‘All hail Azazel!’ one of the demon pirates exclaims, their ship floating on the great frozen Sea of Oblivion, far beyond the realm of the flesh.
Azazel frowns and crushes his wine glass, declaring that there is still much work to be done. ‘Our fleet must grow and grow, until our ships control every port of the dead. Our coffers must swell with even more pillaged souls. And our enemies…our enemies must learn that even death will not save them from our fury’ he announces. Suddenly, there is a BAMF in the air above the ship. ‘Speaking of enemies’ Azazel mutters, turning to the teleport signal, as someone emerges from it, and falls into the frozen sea around the ship.
It is Dr Henry McCoy a.k.a. the Beast, who starts to use his claws to climb up the side of the ship. He is cold and wet, and mutters that he needs coffee. ‘You hear that, boys? Our would-be stowaway here doesn’t seem to care for the waters of purgatory’ Azazel mocks. Two of the pirates are waiting for the Beast as he reaches the top of the ship. ‘Make sure to throw him back in…once you’ve made him eat his own guts’ Azazel instructs them. ‘Oh my stars and garters…’ the Beast utters, before suddenly leaping forward, knocking the two pirates down with ease. ‘You have my gratitude, gentlemen. Nothing quite like the threat of vivisection to get the old blood flowing again’ he tells them.
The Beast is the only known mutant who can use his feet to do a Rubik’s Cube or to beat someone senseless - maybe even both at the same time, as he flips through the air, taking out more of the pirates. Azazel teleports, and the Beast states ‘That, I do believe, was a “Bamf”. Made by a red-skinned teleporter with a prehensile tail. Oh, dear. I fear this can only mean one thing’.
Azazel teleports once more, appearing in front of the Beast, ‘It means you X-Men are in waaay over your heads this time’ he warns the Beast, slashing his sword into the hero’s arm. The Beast leaps backwards, dodging another attack. ‘Azazel, I presume. The would-be devil who claims to be Nightcrawler’s father’. “Claims”? Azazel asks. ‘Don’t tell me you don’t see the resemblance?’ he declares, but the Beast tells him that he is nothing like the friend he once knew - he can see that quite clearly. ‘And you’re an X-Man if I’ve ever seen one. What do they call you then? Mr Monkey Face? Captain Gorilla Beard?’ Azazel mocks. ‘They call me Dr McCoy!’ the Beast retorts. High up on the ship’s mast, he kicks Azazel off of it - but he teleports up higher. ‘I call you slow!’ Azazel taunts.
The Beast leaps higher, flipping himself backwards to reach Azazel, who adds that the Beast is a fool for thinking he could face him here, in his element. ‘Perhaps I would agree, if I had any inkling of where “here” actually was’ the Beast responds. Azazel tells the Beast not to worry, assuring him that oncer his pets have tired of savaging his carcass and tossed it into the frozen sea, he will have an eternity in which to figure it out. Hanging upside down by some ropes, the Beast states that judging by the atmospheric conditions, the temperature of the water, and Azazel’s usual modus operandi, he presumes he will attempt to convince him that this is actually the spiritual realm of purgatory where dead souls are said to languish in limbo for untold centuries - and not simple some random, alternate dimension where he has managed to pretend to be someone of importance.
‘Get up there! Get after him, you dogs! Load up that cannon!’ Azazel bellows at the pirates. Azazel teleports closer to the Beast who is swinging on some ropes and tells him ‘You presume I care what you think, Doctor. You presume too much’. ‘I do, but I’m trying to cut down’ the Beast responds, while Azazel tells him to believe whatever he likes then - while it is still within his power to do so. The Beast drops down onto another mast, and asks Azazel if he really thinks he is going to invade the Earth with pirate ships, telling him that it sounds rather sad and pathetic - even for him. Azazel teleports onto the mast and replies ‘Invade Earth? Oh no, Doctor. Since my last defeat, I’ve moved on from such a short-sighed goal. Who cares about a mudball with a few paltry billion souls on it, when I can simply carve out my own corner of the realm of the dead…and have the souls come to me. By the trillions’ he reveals, using his sword to slice off the part of the mast that the Beast is on.
The Beast swings on the ropes he is holding, announcing that he never though someone could make Hell sound worse. ‘But congratulations, you just did’ he tells Azazel, while pardoning himself as he bounces against one of the pirates, knocking him off the mast, and telling them to mind the fur. Hank then dodges a cannon ball which is fired his way. ‘I say! Are cannons really necessary? I’m only a science teacher!’ he exclaims, landing on another mast. Azazel teleports, then re-appears above the Beast, who asks ‘Conquering the Afterlife, huh? I suppose when it comes to a god complex, you believe in going all the way, Az’. At the same level, they engage in physical combat, ‘All the way indeed. Here inthis world, souls are the most valuable commodity there is. And my coffers are overflowing’ Azazel boasts.
The Beast reaches for Azazel’s sword as the demon declares ‘The more souls, the more power…the more like God one becomes’, and he tells Hank that he may begin praying to his new god now. ‘No thanks. Bit of an agnostic myself. Never had much use for prayer. Now math on the other hand…’ the Beast replies, taking Azazel’s sword by his foot, he uses his other foot to push Azazel backwards, and somersaults off the mast. Muttering some equation, the Beast drops to the ship proper, ‘Right about here’ he decides, punching one of the masts in half, ‘And that should do it’ he declares, cart wheeling out of the way as ropes all around the ship are flung together, and a large piece of cloth rises from the boat, trapping many of the demon pirates in it. ‘Math, 1. New God, 0’ Hank grins, as the pirates struggle to break free. ‘You do realize it’s not just God I’m taking over for, Doctor’ Azazel calls out as one of the red Bamfs teleport over Azazel, who throws his other sword to it - and the red Bamf teleports behind the Beast - shoving the sword into his back.
Azazel teleports in front of the Beast, and kicks him, hard and with so much force that he sends the mutant hero careening off the ship and back into the freezing waters below. ‘I’m the new Devil as well. Heh. Agnostic overboard’ Azazel grins, pleased with himself. With the sword still lodged in the Beast’s back, he sinks in the water. Spirits swim around him.
Back on the ship, Azazel orders one of the pirates to clean the mess up and get back to fishing the waters. ‘Aye aye, Admiral’ the pirate replies, while Azazel remarks that the Bamfs tell him his son has fled from Heaven - and no doubt he is responsible for these X-Men being here. ‘Find Nightcrawler. And bring him to me in one piece’ Azazel shouts, adding ‘As for his X-Men…feel free to leave them in as many pieces as you like’. He then hands the ship over to Captain Caligula, as he teleports away. ‘All right, you dogs! You heard the Admiral! Look alive out there! Let’s cast those nets and get to hauling souls!’ Captain Caligula orders, warning the others that if they can’t pull their weight around here, they are liable to wake the beast within him. And at that moment, the Beast’s hand emerges from the water as he sinks his claws into the side of the pirate ship.
Elsewhere, on the Sea of Suffering: ‘Gaahh! Enough of this! Let’s just kill her!’ a pirate calls out as several of them on this other pirate ship have captured Ororo “Storm” Munroe. ‘What’s the ruckus, boys?’ Captain Kid inquires as he goes over to them. One of the pirates explains that this is the fourth time she has broken free, that ropes, chains, nothing they have got on the ship can hold her. ‘She tore off four of my nipples!’ one of the demon pirates groans, while another complains that she broke both of his noses. ‘Is that right?’ Captain Kid asks, putting a hand on Storm’s face. Storm glances sideways, while the Captain remarks that it would be a shame to kill her - as it is kinda nice having a warm body on board. ‘Just cut off her hands. That oughta slow her down’ the Captain informs one of the demon pirates, who replies ‘Aye aye, Captain’. Two other demon pirates hold Storm over a barrel, and the one with the knife tells them to hold her still. Storm struggles under their grasp, when suddenly one of the pirates on the look out atop the mast calls out ‘Captain!’
‘Captain, I seen something! Out along the coast! Puffs of smoke it looked like! I think it might’ve been -’ the pirate calls down, while on the ship, Captain Kid asks ‘What’s that? What’s he saying up there?’ Another pirate calls out to him: ‘Lookout! What’d you say?’, but they can no longer see him - he has vanished from his position. ‘To hell with it. Let’s finish what we started’ the pirate with the knife suggests, only to discover that his knife has been snatched out of his hands.
Storm looks up, wide-eyed, when she hears a BAMF. ‘Blessed Goddess…’ she whispers, for on the pirate ship wheel, Kurt “Nightcrawler” Wagner has materialized, accompanied by several blue Bamfs. ‘I hereby claim this ship in the name of the X-Men. Anyone who objects… pick up a sword and step forward’ Nightcrawler declares.
The pirates move towards Nightcrawler, while the Bamfs teleport away - and land on some of the pirates, including the ones holding Storm down. ‘Okay then. Perhaps you could all form a nice orderly line…’ Nightcrawler suggests. ‘It’s da Nightcrawler! It’s Azazel’s -’ one of the pirates begins, before he is teleported off the ship and dropped into the water by one of the Bamfs. Captain Kid grabs Storm, ‘Where do you think you’re going, girl? This is my ship and nobody -’ he begins, until one of the Bamfs teleports Storm away, replacing her with one of the pirates. ‘Captain… why you… choking me?’ the pirate asks, finding Captain Kid’s hand around his throat. ‘Damned teleporters. Find them!’ Captain Kid orders.
But Nightcrawler has teleported up to the lookout, with Storm. ‘Kurt. Please be real. Please tell me you’re truly here’ Storm utters. ‘I’m here, Ororo. Still dead. But I’m here’ Kurt assures his friend. ‘Dead. But… I can feel you’ Storm points out, adding that she doesn’t care what happens - she is not leaving this place without him. ‘It doesn’t matter what happens to me. That’s not why you’re here’ Kurt smiles. Storm tells him that he has no idea how much they have missed him. ‘No one more so than -’ she begins, but Kurt interrupts her, ‘Please…can we not do this right now? I can’t fight pirates if I’m crying’ he points out, before adding ‘Speaking of fighting pirates…’ as he hands Storm one of his swords. ‘Swords, pirate ships, Bamfs…this is what it’s like to be you for a day, isn’t it?’ Storm asks. ‘More or less. What do you think?’ Kurt replies. ‘I think I could learn to like it’ Storm tells him. Kurt pulls Storm close - their lips barely an inch apart. ‘I knew I was right to fall madly in love with you all those years ago’ Kurt utters. ‘Shall we, my lady?’ he asks. ‘Lead the way’ Ororo tells him, before he teleports them off the lookout…
…and out over the ship. The drop down into the frenzy of pirates below, Storm slices her sword through them, while Kurt leaps over them, kicking one in the face with his foot.
‘So I hear you’re thinking of leaving?’ Kurt asks Storm as they sit on the roof of the Xavier Mansion under a starry sky. ‘Yes. I am afraid so’ Storm responds, adding that it is nothing personal, but that she misses her home. ‘I don’t belong here at Xavier’s with these other mutants. I miss the Serengeti. I miss flying free’ she admits. Kurt assures Storm that he understands - as he actually misses the circus. ‘And that Wolverine person scares me immensely’ he confesses, before asking Ororo if he can show her something before she goes. They go inside, and Kurt opens the door to the attic, explaining that he got permission from the Professor to fix up some space that wasn’t being used. ‘I know it’s not much, but… what do you think? Could you make a home from this? For perhaps a little while longer at least?’ Kurt smiles, as Storm looks around the room, filled with plants. ‘Ororo? Are you crying? Or is it raining in here?’ Kurt asks. ‘Both. Now come over here and let me kiss you’ Storm grins. Kurt asks her if this means she is not leaving, to which Storm tells him there is one condition - he must stay here with her forever.
‘Claim my ship, huh?’ Captain Kid calls out. ‘That’ll be a cold day in hell’ he snarls, aiming his guns at Nightcrawler. Storm calls out to Kurt, who quickly teleports in a series of rapid-fire jumps, dodging all of the bullets. ‘Nobody’s claiming my ship while I’m still standing on it!’ Captain Kid announces - but suddenly, this ship collides with another, and Captain Kid falls off the edge, over into the water. ‘What hit us?’ Storm asks. ‘Another ship, it would appear. That means more pirates’ Kurt points out. ‘Hood. We were starting to run low’ Storm jokes, while Kurt tells her that she is beautiful, and warns her to be ready - be ready for anything. One of the pirates on the other ship cries out, ‘Keep him away! Send me back to hell if you want, just don’t make me fight him anymore!’
‘Fight who? What is…’ Kurt begins, as the Beast roars and lumbers onto the second ship, sword still in his back. Nightcrawler sees the smartest, most caring and compassionate mutant he knows - but even more so than Wolverine, the Beast would be the last mutant in the world Kurt would want to run up against in a dark alley once he had been pushed too far. ‘Henry! You change faces more than anyone I know. But that must be you. Come over here and give me a hug, you big blue… Henry?’ Kurt calls out, but the Beast just lurches forward and growls!