Several exotic figures are huddled around the TV set at Braddock Manor, listening attentively a televised speech by Sir James Jaspers, M.P.
They are clandestine, they are frighteningly powerful and they are not our friends. They have walked among us for more than forty years, robbing us of our independence an endangering lives… And they call themselves superheroes!
Sir James continues that not only is the USA overrun with them, but they are also everywhere else. Many of those creatures are individually as powerful as armies. And they have encouraged them! Last month, the president granted a full pardon to the Hulk! Those monsters must be contained, but how? How do you reprimand creatures that are indestructible? That can bend the very lightning to their will?
Overcome with horror, Linda McQuillan cannot stand to watch any longer and leaves while Jaspers’ speech drones on:
But how do we suppress the supermen? But let them know this… impregnable though they may be, humanity is aware of the menace they pose. We have closed our ranks against them and we stand determined… waiting to see who will make the next move.
The Special Executive member named Legion is playing a game of chess with one of his doubles. Predictably, it ends in a stalemate. Brian walks after Linda. On the couch, Wardog has an arm draped around Cobweb, who is shooting him an annoyed look. Fascination is still hovering over Tom, leeching off his anger. Both Tom and Betsy are looking dagger at her.
Brian addresses Linda, reminding her that the man on the TV isn’t the same James Jaspers responsible for what happened to her Earth. He’s the James Jaspers of this continuum. A totally different man. Maybe it is all a coincidence. Linda replies that her para-senses led her to this mansion tonight to tell him what had happened to her world. He already knows some of it… but he didn’t hear the screams. He didn’t smell the blood and the burning. But he will. All the horrors… all the purges and the betrayals and executions. And on her world it all began with one little speech. But surely a different speech to the one they just heard, Brian ventures. No! Linda cries. It was exactly the same speech! Word… for word.
In a different setting altogether, billionaire industrialist Sebastian Shaw congratulates Sir James on his speech. Well, worth a trip from the colonies, he jokingly adds. Sir James thanks him and reminds him that none of this would have been possible without the generous contributions that Shaw Industries have made. Small change, Shaw laughs, mere coppers. And speaking of “coppers”… he introduces his companion Henry Peter Gyrich from Central Intelligence. Though he isn’t here in any official capacity, Gyrich hastens to add. The men laugh amiably and Sir James asks to be excused. A woman calls him over.
And so it goes on, a carousel of introductions and handshakes and backslaps and musky perfumes and ambassadors’ wives. Ringing laughter like icecubes, gin and insincerity… He feels ghostly and distant again. He wants to laugh but he feels too sad because the wine is wrong. It’s white wine. He doesn’t like white wine. He only likes red wine. Angrily, he looks at the glass. Reality shifts and he is holding a glass of red wine.
The brittle shrieks of distant hostesses splinter against the smoke-blue glassiness of everything. A crooked man is smiling a crooked smile.
Otherworld, set in a lush exotic surrounding, Roma and Merlyn watch what has just transpired while sitting in a pool. And so it begins, Merlyn states. He holds out two closed fists. Roma points at one and Merlyn opens it to reveal a tiny black skull. Well, chosen, he commends her. Black moves first. They begin to set up a complicated three-dimensional chess set with rather unique chess pieces.
On Earth a phone rings.
Roma sets up a black piece of a made-up trashily-dressed elderly woman.
On Earth, said woman attended by a guard, takes the receiver. Of course it is the Vixen speaking, she states annoyed. She believes the person on the line to be the assassin, Arcade, but the other person interrupts her. This isn’t Arcade. This is a cheekier chappy by far. And nevermind asking how he knew how to reach her.
Roma set up a black piece of one of Vixen’s guards.
They mystery caller continues that the Vixen’s forces now control STRIKE from within, don’t they? Who is this? the Vixen asks.
Roma set up a black piece of Sir James Jaspers.
On the phone, Jaspers tells the Vixen this is not important. What is important is that, within a week, STRIKE will receive direct orders from the British government to eradicate all superheroes. She is to prepare herself. Toodle-oo.
Roma sets up a black piece of a man dressed in mysterious armour, evocating the idea of a beetle.
On Earth, a confused Vixen thoughtfully stares at the receiver.
Back at Braddock Manor, another round of chess ends in stalemate for Legion and Legion. Annoyed, Cobweb tells him this is the fifth stalemate game he has played against himself this night. Can’t he take up something less predictable and irritating? Ping-pong? Legion suggests.
Wardog gently tries to draw Cobweb away, telling her they have to work out what to do about this situation. Who’s paying them? Zeitgeist demands. He keeps on insisting. He reminds Wardog that they are only there until Saturnyne pays them the money they are due. This isn’t their fight. No more credit.
This is their fight, the precog Cobweb insists. Something is going to happen there on this world that will affect them all, but she doesn’t know what it is.
At that moment, Betsy Braddock receives a precognitive vision: She sees a concentration camp, a sky turned dark by all the smoke, heads on pikes, captured superheroes, screaming people and one of them is her.
In the other room, Linda McQuillan shouts that they will be facing death camps. Torn scraps of bloodied capes and masks being tossed to the screaming mob. She’s seen it. She can’t stand seeing it again. But if that’s true they have to fight back. They’ll need everybody, Brian states. She is a superhero… No! Linda shouts. She is not a superhero. When they come for her, she’ll plead and cry and beg and say: I’m not a superhero. Take him, over there instead. He’s a superhero. Not me!
Crying, she tells Brian there was no point in coming there. She’s going now. Telling him goodbye, she runs out into the snow.
On Otherworld, Merlyn positions his white chess piece, Captain UK, after Betsy and Tom. Most of the pieces are in play, he announces and yet… it seems as if some factor is amiss. It looms on the periphery of his vision. Can he have forgotten something?
On Earth, Linda McQuillan walks through the snow, observed by the Fury, about to attack her.