Somewhere in the Australian Outback, they mysterious mutant called Gateway sits at his fire. He looks up as though noticing something, takes his bullroar from his bag and begins to whirl it. A teleportation portal appears as a result and out of it steps the villainess Viper, who has found the experience exhilarating. Turning to Gateway, she comments that the experience was quite sensual. Is this generally the case when he teleports someone around half the world or did he throw in a little extra for her? She plays with his hair as she comments that she is not above… rewarding those whose services curry her favor. As he continues to ignore her, her tone becomes more threatening and she points out that she does not hesitate to strike down those who would greet her with contempt.
A newcomer sharply tells her it is enough. The mysterious Spiral explains that Gateway has rendered his service, albeit reluctantly. They can expect nothing more. Viper sarcastically greets the other woman and comments on her lateness. Spiral informs her that the Body Shop sets her priorities. Need she remind Viper that certain procedures can be extremely delicate requiring strict monitoring? In order to ensure the desired result these procedures must be allowed to proceed at their own pace. How is it Viper’s species puts it? Do you wish it done quickly, or done right? She wishes it done! Viper sulks. As contracted. As the women step away from Gateway, Spiral promises Viper she won’t be disappointed.
Harry’s Hideaway, a small pub in Salem Center, NY, which is exited by an extraordinary man wearing a hat and trenchcoat. Hank McCoy aka the Beast remarks that this was disappointing. Not the lunch or the drinks but the discourse that accompanied them. One would think that his stint with the Avengers was the sum total of his life’s achievements. He can’t believe the reprobate still kept on addressing him as Mr. Beast. But coming here served its purpose, namely to relax.
Suddenly, Hank moans, finding himself under a psychic attack. The struggle is brief and Hank succumbs to the will of a young woman who profusely apologizes. Recognizing his attacker momentarily as the former New Mutant Karma, Hank tries to ask her what she is doing, but Karma’s will prevails and Hank is under her control. While Hank has been trained by Xavier to shield his mind from psychic penetration, Karma too has been trained by Xavier in circumventing such barriers to possess the minds of others. So, God help her, she has him now.
A little later at the Hellfire Club, the possessed Beast makes short work of the club’s mercenaries. Karma asks him to hold one for questioning and Hank complies, holding the guard down o the ground. Xi’an asks the man where her siblings, Coy Leong and Nga, are. The guard replies he has no idea what she is talking about. Selective amnesia? Karma mocks. Fine, she has just the treatment for that. As she is about to start the torture, she suddenly finds the Beast touching her shoulder. Sternly, he tells her “no”.
Later at the Xavier Institute, Xi’an’s former teammate and new X-Man, Sam Guthrie, reprimands his old friend for what she did: taking control of Hank to launch an unprovoked attack on the Hellfire Club? What was she thinking? Holding her head in her hands, Xi’an shouts that she wasn’t thinking, she was reacting! It’s been years! She thought she had them this time. She was so close, she had to act first! She was desperate, she admits in a small voice. Her little brother and sister were there. The Hellfire Club had them, but she was too late. The Club already passed them on to Viper! The woman who nearly killed Xi’an when she first joined the New Mutants. And now they’ve been bartered like cattle.
Which they found out by hacking into the Hellfire Club’s computer records, Beast adds. A more civilized method of getting information than the one Xi’an was about to employ.
How many more times does she have to apologize? Shan sighs defensively. Hank reminds her that, if her concentration hadn’t slipped… if he hadn’t stopped her… He breaks off. If she needed help why didn’t she just ask?
Angrily, she repeats the word. The X-Men have known of her hunt since she first began it. None of them ever offered any help. They would have, Hank retorts, but she never gave them the opportunity. Holding Shan by the shoulders, Sam remarks that she is now.
A little later, Hank sits in the Cerebro device, warning the two young people that this is a long shot. There is little concrete evidence after all that Leong and Nga harbor any latent mutant abilities and locating mutants is what Cerebro does best. Or at least it does when the professor or Jean are manning it. It’s been known to be a little “temperamental” with anyone else. Still, any haven in inclement weather…
Sam notices that Shan looks sick. She tells him she’s fine, just a little exhausted. Just as Hank admits he has had no success, Shan screams in pain and faints. Awaking a little later, she announces that she knows where they are. She saw what’s happening to them. She felt their pain! They’re being transmutated at Spiral’s Body Shop.
Sam drops his glass of water on Shan’s clothes and Hank admonishes him. He then asks if he has anything on his agenda, to which Sam replies nothing that won’t keep. His sentiments exactly, Hank agrees, as he looks at the desperate Karma. Sam announces he’ll gather up all information they have on the Body Shop. They’ll need it.
Meanwhile, slightly to the left of reality within said Body Shop, Spiral announces in satisfaction that she got her. Nailed the little mutie witch with a full scale psionic blast. Karma now knows where the children are. That’s nice, Viper remarks off-handedly, as she looks at one of the twins in a cocoon. Families should stay in touch, even if it is to share the agony of sub-cellular reconfiguration. Speaking of which… The process nears completion, Spiral replies.
They recline to a more comfortable part of the Body Shop. Impatiently, Viper asks if it always takes this long. Spiral warns her not to try her patience. She will find the end result well worth the wait. Referring to the twins, she adds both of them were prime material. Young enough to be infinitely malleable. Viper’s vendetta against Karma springs from past confrontations she gathers. Viper curtly replies that her motives are hers to know. She looks up as a gnome-like little being comes hopping, carrying a tray with a drink.
From enhancing Lady Deathstrike to a cyborg to making creatures like this? Does Spiral have too much time on her hands? Stroking the creature, Spiral explains that the Body Shop is not in constant use. During the lull periods, she likes to amuse herself by running lower life forms through various procedures, familiarize herself with the working of some of the more obscure traits. This used to be a squirrel.
Back at Xavier’s, Beast and Cannonball urge a reluctant Karma to go through her and the twins’ history and share it with them to see if they can pick up any clues. Most of it they know, Xi’an replies.
She was born in Communist Vietnam. Eventually, her mutant powers of psi-control manifested. Her parents died while they were fleeing to the United States, after which she promised to take care of her younger siblings Leong and Nga forever.
When her uncle, the late, unlamented crimelord General Coy discovered what she was able of… he saw all kinds of possibilities none of which interested her in the least. That was when he abducted the children, playing kindly uncle while threatening to kill them if Xi’an refused to do his bidding. With Spider-man’s help, she freed the twins. She thought that was the end of that. She set the twins up in what she hoped was a stable environment, then joined the New Mutants to bring some stability into her life.
They know the rest. Leong and Nga were once again abducted and used as pawns to strike at the X-Men. After they saved them… they disappeared a few months later. She has been searching for them ever since.
And blaming herself, Beast guesses. How can she not? Shan wonders. They were her responsibility. Sometimes she wonders… are they being made to pay for her wrong-doings?
Taking her hands, Sam tells her enough of that. Thinking that way ain’t doing anyone good. She isn’t alone anymore. He hugs her and promises they’ll get the twins back.
At the Body Shop, Spiral checks on the children and announces that it shouldn’t be much longer. The transmutaion process accelerates dramatically from this point. Staring at the boy, Viper admits she’d been looking forward to hearing them scream. She’s somewhat disappointed. Spiral replies that the novelty wears off after the first dozen or so subjects. Before she sound-proofed the units, she could barely hear herself think. Another five minutes should do it. Viper suggests Spiral fetch their guest of honor. It just wouldn’t be a party without her… while drinking in the sight of Nga screaming.
Back at Xavier’s, the men have just explained to Shan that the Body Shop cannot be reached by conventional means. Beast adds that it might be in another dimension or alternative reality. Nobody knows for sure. Suddenly, the alarm goes off – a perimeter breach. Sam carries the outside two outside in his Cannonball mode. All this fuss over her? asks Spiral, waiting for them outside.
Karma snarls at her to take her to the twins. She tries to possess the other woman, who deflects he power. As Shan sinks down to her knees, Spiral tells the two X-Men that the little party is invitation only. Sam flies at her, quipping it won’t be the first party he’s crashed. Spiral, however, penetrates his forcefield with her magic and tosses him away.
Beast attacks while she is busy with Sam, hitting her across the jaw and dodging her sword blows. He takes her in a wrestling grip, but she teleports away towards the unconscious Shan and Sam. She begins to teleport away with them, figuring Cannonball is just the icing upon the cake. Beast does the only thing he can: he jumps into her teleportation gate. A moment later, things are calm again outside Xavier’s and quite empty.