Avengers Tower, New York headquarters, HAMMER. Nate Grey aka X-Man (vastly powerful mutant shaman, Future Legend), currently inhabiting the body of Norman Osborn (Evil boss of you. Quicksand), smiles and holds up his hands as his eye glows.
Okay, she’s got him, Osborne states. Nate Grey has taken up residence in this body. He doesn’t think much of the interior décor, he adds. But again, he asks her Why should he give her anything? She is a terrorist with a history of betrayal. Recently of his dad. Then she pretended to be his dead mom as part of Osborn’s plan to leech on his power. And now she comes to him, not with a plea, from one mutant to another, but with an implied threat.
Well nobody’s perfect Mystique (shapeshifter. Always crashing in the same car) replies. So if he’s not planning on helping her, what is he going to do?
He looks out the window. Contact Scott. Tell him he doesn’t have to feel confined. Go through the prisoners. See who needs freeing. He has to make a list of his own. Work out what leads to the best future. Who should stay in the Avengers. Who should be asked back. He has to normalize the whole… the whole … national superhero… Suddenly, he moans, feeling agony in his head.
Nate? Mystique asks. Norman? Don’t call me that! two different voices coming from Norman’s body shout. Osborn’s in here too, Nate realizes, and is stronger than he thought. But he is still in control! He sinks down exhausted.
He won’t free her from those bombs, he decides. Not until she redeems herself. Her threats of exposure are meaningless. He could burn through her mind in a moment and change her story. But if she runs now, he won’t stop her.
Mystique leaves the room. Her instinct is to run. Which way is the future? she asks her dead lover Destiny. If only she were alive to tell her! Is Nate going to make everything “normal” again? Normal for who? Damn it! she swears and goes to inform her teammates.
The Dark Beast (serial biologist from another universe. Cat People) agrees. Of course! Grey can change his energy form into a mental projection and possess Osborn. Excuse him, he’s about to run from here screaming!
Here’s what he’s going to do, Mimic (replicates mutant powers. Sense of Doubt) announces. He’s going to go to him. Ask for more about his future.
Omega (absorbs mutant powers. Space Oddity) holds his head. With him around all the time, he will never be sane, he worries.
As Cal is about to step outside, Raven warns him that Nate is never going to give him his answers. He will judge him! And make that knowledge into a reward or a punishment. Is his conscience clear enough to submit to that? Or wouldn’t he rather have the power to find the answers for himself? Cal stops and slowly turns around.
Inside Norman Osborn’s mind:
Nothingness and in it Nate Grey and Norman Osborn sit at a table and are testing their strength against each other. Surprisingly, Nate has to work up a sweat. He admits that Norman astonishes him. Nate has all these powers. He’s keeping Norman’s body going in the world, doing all kinds of stuff out there. But when it comes down to this… to a contest of pure will…
Osborn replies his father used to say to him, “It’s not all about you.” Norman told him he was working on that. Mutants! he snorts. Heh. With guys who became super heroes it’s pretty easy to dominate them. He means, his superiority to these sympathy-craving personas is kind of obvious. And they follow a pecking order: Yell Avengers assemble! they are yours. But mutants, they don’t just believe in the myth of good and evil like the others do. Mutants are super heroes with politics. He thought he’d beaten the ones who matter by pushing them back on that island. But then Grey came along. Osborn begins to smile. Dealing with the unforeseen, proving his mettle… it’s what he lives for.
HAMMER spy-division. Under Manhattan Island. Alex Jarl, the head psychic, is not happy to see Osborn’s X-Men again, particularly as Beast killed one of his “brain cells” (meaning, one of the psychics) Yes, he did, McCoy admits. But only because it was really interesting. Jarl is flattered. They tend to get ignored down here.
Mystique asks if his brain is back in working order. Somewhat, comes the reply. It seemed to react to X-Man’s absorption of psychic power from its original cells. He assigned new ones, but… well… he shows them the brain made of psychics, glowing with red energy. He thinks his brain is… angry.
Last time they used one of his “cells” to gain visual access to the psychic plane, Mystique explains. This time she wants their own minds to be projected into it. Then the easies way… the best way is for them is to become part of his brain, Jarl suggests. The X-Men all react hesitatingly save for the Beast who announces happily that he would be delighted!
Elsewhere, Nate as Osborn calls his assistant Victoria Hand asking something about the prisoner lists. However, he cannot focus as the real Osborn is beginning to break through to Nate’s consciousness. He can’t even concentrate and it’s going to get worse! He won’t let Nate destroy everything he’s created. He likes being an inner demon. Makes a change!
Nate calls Victoria again and tells her to hold all calls and cancel all meetings. There is something he has to settle, and it’s going to take concentration. His eye begins to glow.
The four X-Men are lying atop the “brain.” Jarl tunes into the Mimic’s psi-power and explains the rest of them will be riding piggyback. They should be aware of something happening in three… two… Oh, there they are!
The Astral Plane:
The four find themselves projected into mental chaos, doors, skulls furniture. Mystique asks Mimic what he is thinking. That he’d like it to be like this all the time. It’s like his powers are all his. And it’s all okay. And she actually feels comfortable in this body, Mystique agrees but she thinks to want this too much is to die.
Ahead of them is a green glowing mess. Osborn’s mind, Mimic figures. It reminds him of his own.
In the whiteness, Osborn and Nate actually fight. Trying to throttle and hit him, Osborn asks if Nate doesn’t get it. He’s going to have to spend more and more energy just containing him. While his body does nothing! Didn’t think it through, did he? he smirks. As always, he thought proclaiming his own goodness and judging people was enough.
Osborn, Nate replies, all this isn’t even the major part of his plan. He smiles as his eye begins to glow. That should be arriving… now!
Elsewhere, the Dark X-Men are in what appears to be a dungeon. So this is…? Omega begins to ask. The interior of Osborn’s mind, McCoy replies looking at a scan. To be precise, the area where Grey has Osborn’s personality confined. He has mental constructs of devices with him. Don’t all compliment his cleverness at once. Ah, yes! He tells them which way to go.
Omega complains he doesn’t get it. Impatiently, Mystique explains: They free Osborn’s mind, help him evict Grey, gain Osborn’s trust for having stayed loyal. Hopefully enough for her to be free of—
Yes, he’s no fool, Omega interrupts impatiently. What he means is why is there walking and finding if they are in a mental space? What does it represent except a… deliberate delay. And if so, who’s doing that?
Maybe Grey? Mystique suggests. What, Omega scoffs, his strategy against them is slight frustration? And is that anything like they imagined Osborn’s mind to be?
“Hey!” Beast shouts, “they found it!” He points at a giant bolted doorway.
Elsewhere, Nate now states that Osborn didn’t think it through. He is dealing with someone who can sometimes see the future. Everything he’s done so far has been him waiting for this to happen. Osborn can feel them in here now, can’t he? His own inner defenses trying to delay them, to hold them back. Only they are not strong defenses now. He’s only causing them slight frustration. Because he’s using all his energy fighting Nate.
Elsewhere, Omega asks the others to listen to him. But they don’t and Mimic blasts apart the door.
In the whiteness, Nate has Osborn on the ropes. He won’t get the chance to stop them getting there, Nate announces. He is keeping Osborn busy here. What would really destroy his world right now? Who does he really not want people to see him as? He doesn’t know if it was that warped brain of Jarl’s searching for something like itself or just that the search for a psychic “jail cell” in his brain found the wrong thing… but guess who’s coming out to play?
The Dark X-Men enter the dungeon. This isn’t where they are supposed to be! Omega babbles nervously. This isn’t where Osborn’s mind is being held prisoner!
Osborn’s mind? a new voice from the darkness asks. They really have dialed the wrong number! He’s glad it’s a mistake though. And not a rescue attempt. He means, he’d hate to have to be indebted to those he is about to kill! the Green Goblin laughs.