Joshua N’dingi aka Doctor Crocodile has just had his soldiers take the personnel of Mutantes Sans Frontieres hostage and intends to kill the strangely mutated babies of Karere. That was the wrong move, Scott Summer announces. In the last sixty seconds, N’dingi has proven himself intelligent and ruthless and worth a degree of respect. But that was a mistake. There are fewer MSF people here than there are babies. There’s not one of them who wouldn’t lay down their life for a defenseless baby. It’s easy math. They die. The X-Men kill N’dingi and his men. The babies live. And it was his first wrong move.
Really? N’dingi asks, mildly interested. What was his second wrong move? Listening to him while Emma Frost was clearing her eyesight and then assuming mental control of his men, Cyclops replies, and indeed, Emma forced all the soldiers to aim the guns at themselves (usually by obscenely putting them in their mouths). He sees, N’dingi replies coldly. Summers is a little more professional than he’s been led to believe. Very good. Now it’s their turn to listen to him.
Once, he worked for the British government, for that department that’s now referred to as MI:13, paranormal intelligence. There was a thing that happened to Britain, many years ago. In his department, it was known as the “Jaspers Warp”.
Beast swears, exclaiming he was hoping he’d been wrong. Mutagenic radiation severely damaged the environment in the aftermath of the Warp, N’dingi continues. It affected the unborn. The births were xenogenetic. Beast has to explain the word. Offspring radically different from the parents. Originating from a foreign substance introduced into the organism.
They termed them “Warpies,” N’dingi continues They were forced to take these babies into their care for their own good. One night a collection went… very badly wrong.
His partners… one was an engineer, the other more in line of a social engineer. It was their job to handle the parents. He dealt with the kids. He was very fond of kids. He was very young.
A younger Joshua N’dingi, dressed in a white three part suit, walked up the stairs to the child’s room. The little boy was standing on his bed, glowing. “Hey you,” Joshua tried to address him and calm him, promising it was okay. However, the child began to cry hysterically and exploded in Joshua’s face.
He awoke on an operating table. His colleagues had to invent new medical procedures to save his life. He was lucky that he was in high level employment with access to exotic medical technologies.
He left Britain. His father died and he considered himself lucky that he never got to see his new face. He returned home. M’Bangwi was a monarchy. He inherited the duty to protect the people of this country. He’s sure they can conceive of wishing to protect one’s people from this. Perhaps Queen Ororo of Wakanda has been taught a little about duty. One hopes her and the king don’t just sit around counting their vibranium money all day.
All he’s hearing is him talking about killing children, Cyclops points out. Very few Warpies live to maturity, N’dingi explains. As a rule, the longer they live, the more pain they experience. Also, some of them explode, he reminds him with a mirthless smirk. He doesn’t find him amusing, Scott announces. He is not amused, N’dingi replies. He doesn’t have the capability to fight a new Jaspers Warp. He does however have the capability to protect his people from their own sick children. It is not a job he relishes, but it is the job he was born into.
Beast points out they are here under the auspices of Mutantes Sans Frontieres. They can care for these children. All of them? N’dingi scoffs. With more being born all the time? And what happens when they inevitably get bored of aiding an African country? Or when some distracting event happens on American soil and they all have to run and punch someone and MSF medical aid is required? He accusingly points at Henry. What happens when they give his people hope and they fail and the parents learn of their child’s slow agonized death via an email from San Francisco? His way is brutal. It is painful. He will be hated. But their children will die swiftly. And his people will be evacuated from this place and it will be sealed off, so this cannot happen again.
African leaders, Wolverine scoffs. And what would he know of African leaders? N’dingi asks without turning around. He has read all the tribal records of M’bangwi. He knows all about Mr. Logan’s educational trips to Africa. He imagines it’s easy to disrespect African leaders when you are complicit in CIA strikes against three of them. Does it make it easier to romanticize his mercenary past by deciding everyone is as corrupt as he is? N’dingi has judged men and has killed them, but he has never done so for money or for pleasure. He defies Logan to say the same.
Dramatically, N’dingi throws his hands in the air in an exaggerated gesture of surrender. So they have won, clever mutants! Kill them or jail them, take the babies to their shining land across the sea and curse the backwards tribesmen! Perhaps he’ll lodge a complaint with the United Nations, just for fun. They all know how closely African nations are listened to.
No, Beast announces. No? N’Dingi repeats surprised. No, Beast now gets in his face. They are not leaving until they have discovered the source of the radiation causing these terrible problems. It is conceivable that someone is using a device called a Ghost Box. If so, this could be an invasion attempt. An invasion from a parallel Earth will affect a little more than just this town, or just this country. Are N’dingi’s troops capable of resisting a beachhead from another world?
If he bombs out the region from the air, it will be less of an issue, comes the reply. He can’t be that stupid, Henry announces. N’dingi points out the world is riddled with holes into multiversal structure. The chances of this being caused by a Ghost Box are—coincidental, Beast agrees. But does he really believe in coincidences?
The discussion is interrupted when they hear gunfire. He tells Emma to release his men and she complies. N’dingi orders his soldiers outside and to take defensive positions to protect the townspeople. Cyclops orders Wolverine to back them up. Guy’s a &%$&! Wolverine points out. So is he, Cyclops remarks.
A captain comes running to report. Something’s moving in the tree line, something strange. Define, N’dingi orders. Can’t, he admits Everything was rippling around it like a heatwave. There was this sound, this beating sound, pulsing. When he thought it was going to emerge from the trees he opened fire.
Ororo recalls that the townspeople told her about something living in the woods. A devil. If they are looking for a cause for this effect… Can he have control of the mission back? Cyclops asks Beast. Indubitably, Henry agrees, feeling suffused with manly power is honestly terrible for his blood pressure. Cyclops addresses Doctor Crocodile, offering help: let the X-Men find out what is going on in there before he takes action. N’dingi accepts. Cyclops orders Wolverine, Beast and Storm into the forest. Whatever that was, he wants it tracked and quantified. No direct contact unless he gives the word. Emma is to patch them in telepathically. Try to do it without licking them, Spoilsport she sulks.
N’dingi orders two soldier, Nagenda and Musere, to accompany the X-Men, radio only when they have a target in sights. Cyclops begins to protest. N’dingi interrupts. These men are highly skilled in bushcraft. The X-Men would be heard by a competent soldier before his men were even seen. They go! Try to keep u, eh? Wolverine tells the soldiers as the X-Men take the point.
Wolverine decides they ought to head north. He informs Emma that there is definitely something in there with them and it definitely is not from around here.
A sole barefoot man is running panicked. Beast and Wolverine have his scent. Flying above the trees, Storm is he first to see the man. Storm and Beast catch up with him while Wolverine cuts off his way, claws drawn. Frightened the man drops to the ground. Storm promises it’s all right, they are here to help him. She offers her hand and tells him to come back to the village with them. Show the people they needn’t be afraid of him. Then they’ll give him the help he needs.
That moment, N’dingi’s soldiers have caught up and fire at the young man. Storm angrily sweeps them off their feet with her winds. The young man stares at his injury in disbelief, then falls down. Ororo runs to his side. Beast tells Emma to get MSF medics to their location They have a gunshot victim and he may feed these two idiot soldiers to Logan!
Looking at the injured man whom Storm cradles Logan surmises the bullet went in and out. Beast tries to calm him. They have aid on the way. He asks for his name. Jim Jaspers, the young man replies and begs them not to let him die here.
“The Jaspers Warp” that the good doctor mentioned? Beast states. A massive space-time attack perpetrated by a mutant named Sir James Jaspers. One of the aftereffects of which was babies with exotic birth defects… “Warpies…”
But this aint that guy, right? Wolverine asks. Not the original James Jaspers, Beast agrees. But they got Warpies and they got a Jaspers is what he’s saying, so…
This can wait, Storm announces. He’s just a boy. She promises they will not let him die. They’ll solve everything else in due course. He’s safe now. Jim thanks her. He didn’t think anyone would ever say that to him again. He was so scared of having to leave and what that would cause… Oh no! he exclaims a moment later. Furies!
A glowing box appears. That weird flat metal smell, Logan announces. If that ain’t a Ghost Box, it’s damn well close enough. Doctor Crocodile might want to send his army in after all, eh?
Shapes step out of the box, a horde of heavily armed Furies…