A shuttlecraft carrying X-Factor members Forge and Polaris flies over Yorktown, and the two are still engrossed in their argument from last night’s conference on human / metahuman relations. Lorna Dane insists that humans will fear mutants as long as mutants hang on to their deep-seated fear of humans. They are all afraid of what they don’t understand. He’s just mad because she disagreed with him in public. He’s become politician first, individual second, she accuses him. Steering the plane, Forge retorts that the politician is working! Before he became liaison, would they have even been invited to present mutants at that conference?
He misses the point! Polaris insists. Their argument was a demonstration that mutants are like everybody else: they are all different! She made it look like mutants couldn’t stand together for just one night, he snaps. Does she think that will help matters? “Disagree” with him on her own time! Her public display in New York was a betrayal of mutant and humankind!
That moment, an alert sounds that anomalous energy readings are detected. Polaris asks for more information, but is told it is unable to identify them at the time. The energy discharge from the entity poses a “level nine” environmental hazard due to proximity to the Yorktown chemical plant.
What kind of energy discharge? Lorna asks. The computer is unable to identify it. Impatiently, Lorna asks Forge to fix the machine. Forge points out it gives off conflicting readings. So far it didn’t detect a life form within the chaos. In other words, Lorna spits, the whole town could get cooked in a chemical stew because this stupid machine can’t make up its mind!
Ignoring Forge, Lorna jumps out of the plane and attacks the curious creature at the heart of the energy maelstrom, the creature calling itself Strange. She orders him to stop. She contains his energy spikes with a magnetic fields and orders Strange to identify himself.
He moans he must find the one. Strange liquefies under Polaris’ magnetic pressure and recalls how he got here. Strange is an aetheric doppelganger, the elemental magical equivalent of a robot, created by Dr. Stephen Strange in a time of crisis. As that crisis approaches its climax, however, Strange clings desperately to a masquerade of life, though that life is nothing but decaying magicks.
Last night, rejected by his “brother,” the doppelganger Vincent Stevens, Strange fled from New York. Strange mused that Stevens said his magick would have given them true life and that Strange ruined his last opportunity. He vowed to find one more deserving to merge with. Let that Vincent Stevens unravel… Strange will endure!
Strange streamed across the sky, beginning to despair that it was too late to find another. His deterioration didn’t cease and everything he touched warped too. He wondered if Steven was correct and he could only destroy.
Angrily, he burrowed into the earth to learn underground that he could not warp the earth. Strange realized that, being of elemental magick, he has a kinship with the elements: water, earth, air, fire. This alone may not save him, but it means Stevens was wrong. He can learn, and perhaps recreate himself!
He saw a herd of deer and tried to merge with one. He enjoyed the wild grace and power, but realized the deer was complete in itself. He had to find another in pain as he is. Then the merging would make them whole.
He tried to think… sift through Dr. Strange’s memories though it hurt him. Using his newly discovered cognitive powers meant agony and the loss of what little physical control Strange had left. He stumbled through the trees, warping as he spun, incinerating everything with aetheric fire. The moment he emerged from the half light of the woods, the blinding sun and the blasting Polaris were more than he could take.
Polaris expels hardy enough energy to keep herself aloft. Her foe is now a puddle of color flattened beneath her magnetic trust. She was only trying to hold him in magnetic stasis, not kill him!
Feeling Polaris is the one he was looking for, Strange reconstitutes himself. Mutant outcast in need, he senses. Lorna is relieved he is alive. What is he? she asks confused. He is Strange, he replies. Like her he craves completion. He is for her! Be with him… merge with him! he orders and reaches out for her.
Lorna magnetically repels him. Calling him a pervert, she orders him to keep his distance. She will put up with big babies on her own team, but a woman ought to be able to go into action without some testosterone machine harassing her!
He cannot hold on, Strange pleads, but he feels their needs are one. Lorna tells him she wants to help but he has to start making sense. Who is he?
End the pain! he orders. Merge! Lorna realizes he wasn’t hitting on her before. What’s wrong? She doesn’t get “merge.” Does he understand?
Attacking her, Strange replies that he understands that raw strength is all she understands. He has held the sorceress supreme at bay. His elemental magick can overcome all similar forces. For the last time, he invites her to merge and add this power to her own!
Lorna finds that her magnetism shields her from his energy, but realizes whatever fuels his power is so unstable, if he gets closer to the chemical plant, it will be a holocaust. She wonders why Forge isn’t helping.
Forge has landed the jet at a distance and request intelligence via the X-Men’s smart link system. He learns that the media speculate that Strange might be Dr. Strange, but all that has been confirmed is its unstable nature and destructive power.
He witnesses Polaris drawing Strange away from the plant. He scans the being and comes to the conclusion that Strange isn’t a living being, but an elemental configuration. He fears for Polaris, who makes herself vulnerable by treating it as a person and jumping into battle without any communication gear.
Strange tackles Lorna, beginning the merging process, promising that despite the pain they will live forever.
Aboard the shuttle, Forge begins reconfiguring a weapon.
Lorna asks Strange to stop. Why is he making her like him? She wanted to help! Strange points out that she is like him already. She needs to grow… to learn, but is afraid of the pain… of what she doesn’t understand. Just be with him, he pleads.
Merged into one unstable being, they sense each other’s loneliness. That moment, Forge comes running and fires his gun, decoding Strange’s energy structure. In other words: they get separated as Strange is caught in the blast. Forge orders Polaris to get clear. His micromachines will burrow into the entity copying and reworking its source code.
Strange complains that to Lorna he is alive! She wanted to be with him. Reaching for her, he explodes.
Lorna angrily swears at Forge. She knew what she was doing. If a child were throwing a tantrum, you’d try to understand her motivation, not blow them away with some ridiculous Ghostbuster gun! She reminds him of what she said aboard. She wasn’t just talking mutants and humans, she and Strange were breaking down walls!
Angrily, he points out Strange was a magickal construct. It wasn’t even alive! She reminds him that they fear what they do not understand. He didn’t understand this new form of person, so he shot him.
Oh no! she whispers when Strange reforms before them. Strange is taken aback. Despite her words, she feels fear at what she does not understand. Lorna tries to defend herself. She was just startled.
Strange turns away, sarcastically thanking her for showing him he does not seek an incomplete partner, but someone who meets him willingly. If his life is to come to an end, let it be far from the emptiness he feels when he sees her and remembers her hypocrisy. He flies away.
Lorna suggests sarcastically that Forge could chase him now, but he decides it would make things worse. The computer is downloading everything to the professor. Strange is someone else’s problem now.
Later aboard the plane, Professor X contacts them, asking if Lorna is all right. Forge assures him there are no side effects and adds that Polaris saved them out there and saved him from terminating a life form attempting to communicate. She challenged his assumptions in alienation more than a month of formal conferences could have.
Xavier suggests that he play that down in the federal part of their report. Since X-Factor allows humans and mutants to attempt to communicate, they’ll keep it positive.
Lorna is positively surprised and accepts the apology, hoping that Strange will find that kind of compassion within him as well…