At birth, everyone is given a life to lead. Every person can choose to squander this gift and simply do what life tells them to do, or try and forge their own destiny. Those who choose the latter option, however, oftentimes find themselves beaten, battered, and left to the mercy of fate. Alison Blaire, the rock-star mutant known as the Dazzler, and Hank McCoy, the bounding, blue-furred Beast, have both been dashed against destiny’s rocks far too often, but have managed to find comfort in each other’s arms. They just do not know where to go from here.
They sit beneath a gnarled tree on the beach while the waves crash at their feet. Hank tells Alison he needed to see her again after their last fight, but admits to being very confused. Everyone is confused, Alison says; no one knows what they are doing. Hank disagrees. When working in a bio-physics lab, or while saving the world as an X-Man, Avenger, or Defender, he always knew what he was doing. Being with Dazzler has made him feel lost for the first time in his life. She tells him to cheer up; he will find his calling eventually, like how she found the theater. The comparison upsets Hank; he reminds Alison she was practically kidnapped by the arena! She claims it was her choice, and she chooses play the hand fate dealt her. “Come on, Beast, don’t think so much,” Alison says. “Just live!” She points out the empty beach they have all to themselves, and instructs him to relax and, for once, stop worrying about his duties. Hank agrees to give it a try. They walk down the beach together, arm in arm.
Their enjoyment is cut short when they wander onto a crowded beach. Each person Beast and Dazzler pass stares at them in disgust, and says very nasty, very audible things. “They’re holding hands in public?!” “I can’t believe their kind is even allowed on this beach!” “It’s disgusting!” One man points, laughs, and makes several cruel jokes to his friends. One of the men advises his friend not to provoke the muties; they might kill them if they overhear. Beast loses control of his temper. He moves toward the group and threatens to teach the men some manners, but Dazzler restrains him. “Oops! I didn’t think he could understand English!” one of the men says. Dazzler reminds Hank that it doesn’t matter what people think. He agrees; what matters is their love. They do not need the approval of the public. However, it’s much easier to say this than it is to live it.
As they continue their walk, both of their minds linger on the disgusted looks they receive; neither one of them is having fun anymore. Daz finally breaks the awkwardness by saying she has to get back to the theater, but Hank objects to her returning to a place with such a negative influence on her. She reminds him that at least at Hugo’s theater, mutants are accepted. “And did you forget about the murder during last week’s show?” Hank responds. Dazzler brushes this off. She must return, she says, and leaves. Hank notices her hand beginning to glow out of control as she walks away. Obviously the fear of her powers is why she feels the need to hide herself in the theater; Hank only wishes he knew why her mutant abilities were flaring out of control in the first place.
Later, Alexander Flynn escorts Dazzler to the gladiators’ workout room beneath the arena. The sight of her fellow performers hacking at each other with swords makes Alison uneasy, but Flynn promptly explains she has nothing to fear. Everyone there follows a strict code of conduct, and the show would not operate without their implicit trust of each other. “How do you explain the murder at least week’s show?” Dazzler asks, still having doubts. Flynn assures her the death was an honest mistake; the fighting in the arena is more of an elaborate dance than anything. She agrees to give it a try. Hugo Longride, of all people, interrupts and tells her she Alison she isn’t ready to train with these seasoned warriors. Defying his boss’ orders, Flynn insists she participate.
Alison dives into the melee and immediately begins sparring with her old opponent, Horns. She decides this is her opportunity to prove herself to her new peers, and turns the fight into something of a performance. After topping off a series of somersaults, flips, and roundhouse kicks with a brilliant display of light, Alison once again stands in victory over Horns. The other gladiators stand in awe; she has lived up to her name and truly dazzled them. She can’t help but smile as she basks in their compliments. Hugo, however, has nothing positive to say. Angry about being undermined, he orders his gladiators to get back to work.
Flynn speaks over his boss and tells everyone to take a break for the day and hit the showers. The fighters listen to Flynn instead of Hugo and leave. Hugo throws a fit. “Hey! I’m the boss, doesn’t anyone listen to me?” he yells as the defiant performers shuffle out of the room. Flynn nonchalantly tosses a hefty barbell at Hugo in response, and he collapses under its weight. Are you sure about being the one in charge? Flynn asks. No one seems to obey your orders. After all, who wants to work for a tyrant? Hugo sneers at his Flynn for this. He will not be made a fool of.
That night, Alison spends some quality time with her new friend Ivich. The two women discuss life in the gladiator pit, and Dazzler finds herself admitting she is starting to like the way of the arena. In a huff of excitement, Rocker bursts into the room to show Ivich his new scar. He lifts his shirt, revealing a long line of fresh stitches. Ivich marvels at it and explains to Dazzler that these scars are their medals, their symbols of strength. She shows Alison a few of her own, adding that they have some disturbing beauty. Quickly changing the subject, Rocker pulls out a new spiked mace for him and Ivich to play with. Ivich enthusiastically picks up the weapon and swings it over her head. She offers Dazzler a chance to try it out, but Dazzler, being new at melee combat, hesitates. Ivich takes her new toy back and begins sparring with Rocker.
As Alison watches them fight, she comments on their contradictory nature. In a way, they’re so nice, but also…so sick, she says to herself. And yet I become more like them everyday. Am I looking at my own future? Dazzler idly toys with her own mutant powers while her friends fight. She creates several beautiful light sculptures. Even this behavior is new to Alison; in the past, she never played with her powers. However, living with such an encouraging group of people has helped her realize the wonder and beauty she has at her disposal. She conjures up some words and images to test her limits, but her heart stops when she glimpses her latest creation: the word “Heartbreak,” and a portrait of Hank McCoy. She sheds a tear and wonders what Hank is doing right now.
Like Dazzler, Hank is brooding. He sits in the Heartbreak Hotel, alone except for the company provided by Dazzler’s mangled teddy bear. He cannot stop thinking about the danger she’s in. Sure, the arena purports to be safe, but Hank refuses to deny the memory of the man murdered in battle last week. Dazzler and the other gladiators are not murderers. They are good people who are simply misguided.
Kate and Mickey enter the room and interrupt Hank’s miserable longing. Practically reading Hank’s mind, Kate tells him to go and take Dazzler out of the arena by force. Hank claims he tried, but Kate says he has not tried hard enough. She asks how he really feels about Alison. “She-she’s the sweetest woman on the face of the Earth,” he says. If that is true, Kate says, he must try again, this time following his heart. These words breathe new life into Hank, and he bounds out of the room in glee to rescue Alison.
Mickey sighs as Beast leaves. The young boy wishes he could pursue his own desires, but whenever he allows himself to feel anything, his poltergeist gets excited. “If I so much as think, the whole world explodes,” he says. “I want to kill that poltergeist.” Kate admonishes his foolishness; he cannot kill the poltergeist, as he is the poltergeist. At some point, he will need to face his powers and emotions, she says. He cannot hide from them forever.
Meanwhile, back at the theater, the fuchsia-skinned rhino-man Horns unwinds after his workout by repeating motivational statements to himself in the mirror. “You’re the best! My man, you’re going places,” he brags. “I got more death notches on my belt than anyone!” Just in time to hear this self-incriminating statement, Rocker and Ivich burst into the room, and lasso Horns with two sets of chain. They drag him to the floor by his neck. He has been violating the code by which all gladiators conduct themselves; if he refuses to follow it, he will be exiled. Horns scoffs, claiming he can make it in the world without the arena, but Flynn interrupts and tells him this is not true. Deformed mutants like Horns have no chance in the real world; his only choice is to behave. If he violates the code tonight, Flynn says, it will no longer apply to him. Flynn crouches down next to Horns and gives the subdued gladiator a menacing glare. “And you know what that means.”
Standing in the doorway, observing this entire exchange, is Alison Blaire. Flynn and his two fighters turn to leave after finishing with Horns. As he passes through the doorway, Flynn apologizes to Dazzler for having to witness this, but adds it is important she understands how things work at the arena. She nods in approval; Horns did kill someone, after all. The rules make sense. Flynn elaborates, adding that while their show is just a sport, it can also be a battle of life and death. “Our code would seem ruthless to civilization, but for us, it means survival. It’s nature’s order of things,” Flynn says. Dazzler says she understands.
Her new understanding of the code, however, does nothing to quell her feelings about Henry McCoy. That night before the show, as she sits in her dressing room, decked out in a glorified Native American costume, all she can think about is Beast. To her surprise, he pushes open the door and enters the room. Why is he here? she asks herself, noting he looks very grim and determined. Hank is having his own reservations, but brushes them aside. He walks right over to Alison and kisses her, gently caressing her chin. He shouts at her as soon as this moment passes, however.
“How can you do this to yourself?” he asks, referring to the knives strapped to her ridiculous outfit. Dazzler once again claims the theater makes her feel alive by giving her the chance to be a star. Besides, the knives are only props. Beast makes a sarcastic remark about last week’s death during the floorshow. Alison claims that particular incident was merely an accident. As she turns back to face her mirror, Hank notices a long scar on the side of her neck, and asks about it. She echoes the words of Ivich and says the scar has its own certain beauty. She must be brainwashed, Beast tells her.
The distraught Alison pulls him close and buries her face in his chest. She has no choice but to stay at the arena; her powers keep leaking out of control, and she cannot risk letting this happen in public! She begs him to stay her with here. People like them have a home there, and are not viewed as beasts. “Remember the beach?” she asks Hank. “I can’t forget. Those mocking voices, those people found us ugly, so we in turn felt ugly. It made us act strange towards each other.” While she stares in Hank’s eyes, he discretely reaches down and grabs a tube of lipstick off of her vanity top. “The world’s lousy attitude towards mutants would drive a wedge between us.”
Hank, without warning, smears the lipstick all over her face. “You’re blind to this stinking place,” he yells. “They condone murder here! Now, so do you! You disgust me! You might as well finish off with some war paint.” Hank steps back so she can glimpse herself in the mirror and see her face striped with lines of red lipstick. Hank tells her she can stay and perform if she wants, but he will not be in the audience.
He leaves Dazzler alone with her tears. As he makes his way out of the warehouse, kicking at the phony sets and decorations, he happens by two armed guards standing in front of a door. Hmm…where there’s guards, there’s something to hide, Hank thinks. Spotting a gap in the wall of the guarded room, Beast leaps overhead and enters the room, completely unnoticed. It’s a laboratory, and Beast quickly finds a beaker of mysterious fluid labeled “Dazzler.” “What have they been pumping into her?” he asks.
Back at Heartbreak, the young albino mutant Poltergeist dwells on Dazzler’s absence. It seems every time he begins to care for someone, they disappear. He tries to divert this line of thinking before his emotions activate the Poltergeist, but he fails. The hanging plants on the porch begin swaying uncontrollably in response to his frustration. What’s the use? he asks himself. Spider-Woman said the Poltergeist is part of my own mind. Kate did, too. He won’t die ‘til the day I do. This train of thought leads the boy to a definitive conclusion: he will unleash his powers on whoever has kidnapped Dazzler! “So what if it kills me – what have I got to lose?” He does not consider his constant state of emotional repression to be “living,” anyway.
Mickey runs into the hotel and announces his plan to Kate and Link. Kate urges him to settle down before he breaks the windows again; his mere presence in the room already rattles an end table and a fancy vase. Link telekinetically stabilizes the table and prevents the vase from breaking, but as usual, Mickey is too busy ranting to Kate to notice. He invites her to come with him, but she declines, as her superhero days are long past. However, Link volunteers to go. Mickey is shocked; he asks Link what kind of powers he has. “You haven’t noticed?” the surprised Link asks, cracking a smile. “Oh, well. You’ll see them soon enough.”
Meanwhile, it is showtime at the coliseum. Dazzler makes quick work of an opponent atop a faux-rock sculpture; with one blow from her tomahawk, the man falls off the structure and hits the ground with an unsettling thud. At first apologetic, the roar of the crowd quickly makes Dazzler forget about the safety of her foe. She lifts her arms into the air and basks in the audience’s cheers. Flynn, observing Dazzler’s performance from off-stage with Hugo, remarks about the callousness of her victory. She seems to be further along than even he thought, he says to himself. Suddenly a guard approaches the two men from behind. He informs them of an intruder in their laboratory. Beast, it seems, has been discovered.
Hank is busy examining a slide of the enigmatic “Dazzler” chemical in the laboratory. He learns this chemical is responsible for Dazzler’s loss of control over her abilities. With the proper regulation of doses, her captors can create the illusion her powers are out of control, then ease off enough so she believes the arena is somehow curing her. Hank, unfortunately, has no chance to share this discovery, as a group of thugs burst in and clubs him over the back of the head. While one of the guards restrains him, Hugo approaches and injects him with a syringe full of the serum. “In a few minutes, he’ll lose all human control, and truly become a beast,” Hugo says with a sinister smile plastered across his face. Hank begins foaming at the mouth as his animalistic side takes over. All his higher brain functions, as well as the secrets of the “Dazzler” beaker, retreat into the deep recesses of his brain.
At the night’s final performance, the audience is treated to a special performance by two of the theater’s newest performers. Pink mist stirs across the floor of the arena, which has been redecorated to resemble a surreal French chateau and its surrounding countryside. “Inspired by the Cocteau classic,” the announcer reads, “…we are proud to present an enchanting tale – an impossible love story.” Dazzler emerges from one end of the floor, dressed in a striking pink gown. “You see…whenever there’s a beauty,” he announces as she enters, “…there is always a beast.” Out of the castle door emerges a feral Hank McCoy, hunched over and snarling at the mouth.
Shocked, Alison asks what he is doing here. Hank responds only with a growl. He lunges at Dazzler, who tries to buy herself some time while she figures out what to do. She creates a light show to entertain the audience while trying to evade Beast’s attacks. He chases her around a prop tree, pounces at her, and takes a swipe with his claws, clipping her dress. “What are you doing? Is this some sort of crazy revenge?” she asks. Hank’s only response is to knock her to the floor. “I don’t know you,” she tells him, “but I know how to tame the beast.”
As the savage Hank stands over her, Dazzler blasts him in the face with a beam of light and follows it up with a swift kick to his chin. The crowd goes wild as she springs to her feet. Their enthusiastic cheers fuel her power, as well as her lust for attention. They love me…they give me power, she thinks. Her facial expression changes from one of fear to one of grim determination. …And in return, I owe them…a show. Acute beams of light shoot from her fingertips, which she now directs at Beast. Realizing the danger she presents, he dives out of the way, but one of the beams singes his shoulder. Dazzler pursues and knocks him into a rose bush with another high-powered blast, leaving a seared trail of charred flesh across his stomach. A murderous rage contorts her face; at this point, it is no longer clear which of the two is the beauty, and which is the beast.
Hank snaps out of his animalistic rage as Dazzler sears his arm. He hears the crowd’s blood-thirsty chants of “kill the beast!” and he comes to his senses, recognizing his former love standing before him with a murderous look on her face. “Daz!” he says. “Remember our love!” He explains they have both been drugged to lose control and been twisted into cruel caricatures of themselves; Flynn and Hugo made her into a parody of a star, and him, a mockery of a beast. His words resonate with Alison. Her malicious expression melts into one of shame and sadness. She lowers her hands and extinguishes her deadly light. The crowd still demands death, but Dazzler ignores them. She walks over the Hank, helps him out of the bush, and braces his fall as he slips to the ground.
Enraged, Hugo Longride storms into the arena and berates Dazzler for blowing the big climax. “Are you telling me to kill him?!” she asks, clutching the weakened Beast in her arms. Well, Hugo says, she cannot just tease the crowd and leave them hanging like that! “You can’t force me to kill,” Alison sternly replies. If that is the case, Hugo says, her career is over. He orders the other gladiators to execute both Dazzler and Beast. Wasting not a single moment, Dazzler begins blasting the other gladiators with light rays; as Beast is still weak, it is up to her to defend them both. The audience, meanwhile, watches with complete captivation. This is the greatest show they have ever seen, but they have no idea it’s not a show at all.
Alexander Flynn steps in and orders the fighting to stop. The spotlights center on him as he enters the arena, dressed in a regal outfit with a flowing yellow cloak. Hugo tells his second-in-command to shut up; he is the one in charge, after all, and he plans on giving his audience the death they paid to see. Flynn smirks. There will be a death tonight, he thinks, just not one Hugo was expecting. Flynn turns to his loyal gladiators and issues a mandate: as only one man can be in charge of the arena, the performers must pick one to lead. The other, they must kill. Without any hesitation, they swarm around Hugo and slaughter him. They leave their spears and swords sticking out of his corpse. After they walk away, Hugo’s cigar falls out if his mouth and rolls under Flynn’s boot, who extinguishes it with his heel. Last stinking cigar you’ll ever smoke, fat boy, he says to himself.
The audience cheers for Alexander Flynn, the new host of the arena, while the gladiators swear loyalty to their new leader. The scene is like times long ago, when men would overthrow reigning kings and become kings themselves. The people simply followed who ever claimed to be in charge, without question. At the end of this particular coup, however, there are two who dissent, albeit in secret: Ivich and Max Rocker. Ivich doesn’t like it, she says, and Rocker agrees. However, he proposes they wait and observe Flynn’s next move before they act.
Doctor Doom, from his castle in Latveria, receives news of the gladiator coup almost immediately. His messenger has very few details; all he knows is that their transmissions from Hollywood were suddenly severed. The man who claims to be Doom’s son may be in trouble, he says. Doom slaps him. “Utter no further sacrilege – if you wish to live,” he commands. It seems this problem of his estranged son could escalate beyond a mere annoyance without his direct intervention. He orders his servant to bring up all the files on the mutants Beast and Dazzler, and prepare his ship. He wants to be in Hollywood that very night.
The servant begrudgingly complies. As he rubs his throbbing cheek, he comments that Doom, who claims to care about no man, suddenly seems to care about someone very, very much.