In central London, fire engulfs the city, people riot, murder and just generally cause anarchy on their city. It's not their fault though. It is the demon, caged and hungry for centuries, thanks to the powerful sorceress Margali Szardos, a.k.a. the Inner Circle of London Hellfire Club Branch's Red Queen, he is now free, and is feeding off the hate and destruction he has caused the Londoners to do.
The source of the horror is the Black Air headquarters, on the riverfront. Inside, Margali Szardos screams in agony, linked to the demon by the innocent Douglock whom Black Air kidnapped for this plan.
The Red King, seduced by Margali, enters the room, he wants to act, to help his queen, but he cannot, for the demon under London speaks to him also, and is whispering terrible things to him. Frozen in his tracks, the Red King soon realizes that Margali's hands are fused to the power terminal, they are stuck to Douglock, whose unraveled body forms the connection between Margali and the demon who lies beneath London in one of the many underground tombs. It has been locked there, within stone and magic since the time of King James, and it seems only fitting that the "Hellfire" Club's power source be a demon. The Club wanted to mix its hot magic with science, to use power for energy and mind control - but the demon had other ideas. With the initial attack on London now done, it feeds on the madness. It has not had the taste of chaos and murder for centuries, and it is relishing on the evil being done on the surface.
In Excalibur's Midnight Runner, hovering above the flames in London, Pete Wisdom, a former Black Air agent, born and bred in London, watches in horror at his city been destroyed. Excalibur journeyed from their home on Muir Island, Scotland, to break into Black Air HQ and rescue Douglock. This is not what they were expecting.
Wisdom, Meggan, Kitty, Nightcrawler, Colossus, Wolfsbane and Lockheed the dragon can only watch in amazement at the devastation being caused below. None of them has ever seen a city like this. Meggan explains that it is some kind of psychic attack, but even though it is now over, the people who were inside the attacks radius are still affected. She can see the echo of it. The powerful elemental goes silent for a while, then reminds everyone her lover, their teammate, Brian Braddock is down there. She asks Nightcrawler if he thinks Brian is okay. He says nothing.
Standing away from the others Wisdom tells Kitty he doesn't believe what is happening is actually happening. He asks Kitty why they had to bring along her pet dragon, Lockheed. Kitty tells her boyfriend it is because she could tell he wanted to come. Wisdom tells her that Lockheed wants to kill him, burn his clothes and hide his cigarettes, in fact the dragon told him so. Kitty replies that Lockheed cannot talk; he argues telling her that Lockheed stole all of his stuff and told him to back off. Clinging affectionately to Kitty, the dragon gives Wisdom an innocent look. Kitty tells Lockheed not to worry about Pete, he has just gone mad. Wisdom repeatedly tells Kitty that he heard Lockheed speak.
Nightcrawler calls Wisdom over, telling him that Meggan has found the source of the attack. Wisdom tells him that it is definitely the Black Air HQ. Suddenly he notices someone running out of it. Wisdom makes the running figure out to be Scratch. Someone asks why he would be here. Wisdom tells Nightcrawler to open the drophatch, he is going after him. Nightcrawler begins to tell him that other than the fact he will fall to his doom-- but Wisdom tells Kurt that Scratch will know where Douglock is.
Saying their good-byes, Kitty tells Wisdom to take Scratch from a distance, as he is still not healed completely from the incident with Colossus. With some humor in his tone, Wisdom tells Kitty to stay behind Colossus when they go into battle, let him get killed first, and then for her to stay close to Nightcrawler for a teleport out. Neither of them says the words they are thinking. They love one another. Not to mention the fact that Wisdom is going after the one man who may make him kill again.
To land safely on the ground, Wisdom uses his mutant power to project "hotknives" from his fingertips, and as he drops from the Midnight Runner he is buoyed down by thermal updrafts. Down towards his ex-colleague, a mutant who kills for fun. Then there were five.
Inside the Midnight Runner, Nightcrawler, Excalibur's leader, tells his friends that they have to assume Wisdom will bring Scratch back here, but that doesn't mean they have to wait. They are going into the Black Air building. He tells the others that while it may be one of the stupidest moves they have ever attempted, it will be one of the most important. They must not treat it as if it were a war, there will be Black Air operatives down there still, if any of them are still sane. They are criminals, and that is how Excalibur is to deal with them. Excalibur are not soldiers, just people, doing the best that they can. Nightcrawler continues, telling them that they are facing a lot down there, and they can only assume that everything that has happened is a Black Air plan - so they are going to put an end to it, and find Brian and Douglock. He tells everyone to be careful, they are all his friends, even Wisdom, and he wants them to all go home together. The drophatch opens, and it begins.
Moira MacTaggert stands on the airstrip of Muir Island, and it feels like an end to her. She is trying get rid of a thought that something is going to go horribly wrong in London. Suddenly a familiar teleport signal convinces her otherwise - if anything is going to go wrong, it is here on Muir Island. The teleport signature is a bubble signature, it belongs to Excalibur member Amanda Sefton, a.k.a. Daytripper.
The always well groomed Amanda is a mess, blood streams from a head injury and cuts and scratches line her blood-stained costume. She tells Moira that it's Margali... Moira tells Amanda she looks like she has shoved herself through a combine harvester, and asks what happened. Daytripper explains that Margali attacked her when she tried to stop her - and she is going to do something appalling. Amanda starts crying saying it is all her fault, because she let her... And Amanda begins to tell Moira what happened.
(flashback, somewhen between Excalibur #92-96)
Amanda reminds Moira of how she gave her mother the Soulsword for safekeeping, and Amanda reveals only now, that her mother said some things that worried her. Traveling back to Germany to confront her, Amanda realized she was too late... for the ghosts of dead magicians were tied to Margali's caravan, and Margali now sported a young, healthy, red-headed body. She had killed every magician ahead of her on the Winding Way. Now the ruler of the Winding Way, Margali had decided that all its considerable power was not enough. She told Daytripper that there was a demon under London... and she was going to control it, and suck it dry of all its power.
Amanda tells Moira that she tried to stop her mother from leaving, but she was no match for Margali with all of her new power. It is power for its own sake, and Amanda says to Moira that she cannot stop it alone, so she made her way here, to get help. Moira tells Daytripper that Excalibur are in London, and puts two and two together, realizing how everything in London is connected.
Suddenly the duo is startled by a loud noise - it is the Blackbird! Cyclops, Phoenix, Psylocke, Archangel and Cannonball step out of the X-Men's aircraft, and instantly by their expressions, Moira knows something is wrong. She puts up a barrier of defense, asking Jean what she thinks the X-Men are playing at... Jean asks Moira to calm down, not knowing how to say the words she has to say, to Moira MacTaggert of all people. Jean just gets to the point. She tells Moira that Charles Xavier has gone insane.
The five X-Men do the best they can to explain to Moira the events of the last few hours in America, explaining that Xavier has taken on the aspect of a creature calling itself Onslaught, and is threatening all human life. Moira MacTaggert has known Xavier longer than anyone else who wears the "X" or is associated with the X-Men, and she is stunned. Cyclops tells Moira that they had an indication there was something here on Muir Island, a room that could help them. Moira knows what he means. She tells them that Xavier asked her to lay a crypt room deep beneath the research station, and not to ask what was in there. She knows he laid some Shi'ar technology, but that's all. She tells Cyclops and Phoenix to come with her, and asks Psylocke and the others to take Daytripper to the medlab.
At the Hellfire Club estate in London, the Black Queen thinks how she loved the city, and as she stands over the body of the Black King there isn't a word big enough to describe her sadness this morning. Though by contrast, she was not at all bothered by killing the Black King. She just wanted a little peace and quiet. Brian Braddock suddenly enters the room. Standing in the shadows he asks Steed who killed the Black King. She tells Braddock that obviously she did. But it was the Red Royalty, who activated the plan, and the Black King was just driven mad by the failed control effect, so he had to be "put down." She tells him she is surprised that he isn't outside with everybody else, killing and looting and destroying.
Stepping into the light, Brian is wearing a new darker Captain Britain costume. He tells Steed that he had a feeling he may be facing something his ordinary abilities cannot handle. He reveals that recently he had been tinkering with his old Captain Britain suit, the one that could project a forcefield. Luckily the psychic wave from the crypt beneath London where the demon was could not penetrate it. He asks Steed what her excuse is. She tells him she is a mutant, and he thinks that she is Mountjoy.
Suddenly, Scribe enters the room from behind Captain Britain and attacks him, revealing to Brian that it is in fact Scribe whose body had been taken over by Mountjoy. Grinning, he tells Steed to kill him.
Just outside of Black Air HQ, the five remaining members of Excalibur enter the Blackwall through the front door. This surprises Colossus, and Nightcrawler tells him that they are respectable visitors. Entering the main foyer, they discover it empty, no guards or other personal. Meggan can see where they are supposed to go because the center of the event has a rippling effect, like the middle of a pond. She leads them into another corridor. Lucky for her, Colossus stops her from going any further when he notices Black Air security - Meggan notices that they are killing each other. Colossus thinks the effect must be worst of all here, and the guards are very definitely mad. The guards notice Excalibur, and they spit out inconsistent sentences, in particular about killing the "metal thing saying things." Colossus knows that they cannot harm him, only themselves during their hallucinating stage, and tells Kurt that it would save a lot of valuable time if he stayed here to hold them, while the other continue to the center of the disaster. Nightcrawler agrees, orders the others on, and worries about how they have barely begun their battle and two are gone already. Then there were four.
Deep beneath Muir Island, Moira, Cyclops and Jean arrive at a huge door. Moira jokes, telling Charles that he better have left it open for her. As she places her hand up to the imprint pad, it begins to unlock. Moira wonders what he has done here, and as they enter the crypt, it activates the voice computer, which scans their brain waves, identifying them as three of Xavier's closest confidants It unlocks the Xavier protocol, number 0-0-0.
A computer-generated image of the Professor appears before them. He tells Moira, Scott and Jean that if they are seeing these images then he has become a dire threat to the X-Men. He continues that in this instance he must be stopped at any cost. He tells them that several years ago he made a study of various forms of possible defense against his own psychic abilities. He introduces the image next to him as an anti-psionic armor, the wearer will be protected from his abilities. When he finishes speaking, a blueprint for the armor will download. Having a look at the computer, Moira realizes that the combination of their brainpatterns formed a key to unlock the file. Just then, Archangel enters the room and apologizes for interrupting, but he thought they should know that Amanda has "flown the coop". The computer reads out the new brainwave signature, and unlocks Xavier protocol number 0-2-1?
Back in London, among the debris of abandoned cars, broken buildings and dead bodies, Pete Wisdom has finally caught up to Scratch. He thinks back to the time he tore half of Scratch's face off, and now, after Douglock's kidnapping and the disturbing events that have followed, he wishes he had killed him. Wisdom unleashes his "hotknives" against Scratch, but misses, instead hitting a building. Scratch begins to mock Wisdom about missing him. He asks Pete if he remembers how to kill, He tells Wisdom that he was always much pickier about his targets than he, all the while, charging his energy based powers, and then unleashing them on Wisdom, but he misses. Wisdom tells him he had no reason to miss, after all it is not like Scratch has any hair to get in his way, does he? Scratch is very good at killing, much better than Wisdom ever was. And he lunges towards him.
Amanda Sefton's teleport signature appears - but in Southern Scotland, well short of her intended destination. She teleports again. This time she ends up on a busy road, she is exhausted, in great pain and terribly afraid. She teleports again, just before a car hits her. Now she is in a forest. She aims for London, but she keeps falling short of it. Her body tells her to give up, to rest and heal. Amanda is a superhero. She teleports again.
Back at the Hellfire Club building, the Black Queen unleashes her mutant power - psionic skinning. She can slice away layers of the mind like an onionskin, cutting out the higher functions of Braddock's brain, leaving him a cabbage. She tells him she could kill him quickly or make his death last subjective years, filled with awful hallucinations. Sarcastically she gives him the opportunity to watch her make the most of the chaos in London - the business opportunities alone are marvelous. Mountjoy tells her to hurry up and breach Captain Britain's forcefield so he can feed off him, and he is losing control, as the forcefield is slippery.
Brian's fed up, enraged he tells the villains that he has had enough, and shoves Mountjoy off of him. The amplification suit used to lessen Brian's powers as Captain Britain, and it prevented them from developing fully, so he took it off. But before he left Muir Island for London, he found a way for the amplification suit to work for him again. Steed's psychic blades clatter off the forcefield, and extending the field, he throws her down, knocking her out. Captain Britain is back - and Brian Braddock is not enjoying himself.
On Muir Island, aghast, Moira, Cyclops, Phoenix and Archangel watch the computer as it displays Xavier Protocol number 0-2-1 - to be opened in the event of Wolverine becoming a threat. Xavier, through the protocol relays to Moira and the others sensitive information relating to Wolverine. That since losing his adamantium, Logan has become more and less of a threat: while he lost his unbreakable skeleton, his senses and healing factor have been enhanced to incredible levels - a wound that would have been a lethal injury three years ago, would now be just a momentary annoyance. Xavier continues talking. He says that any assault on Wolverine would have to be long range and decisive. His head would have to be severed and removed completely from the vicinity of his body, ensuring no swift flesh and nerve re-growth. With this, Jean Grey bursts into tears. She tells the others that every night when he went to his study to work, he must have been thinking of ways to kill the X-Men. Jean becomes quiet, and telepathically tells Psylocke and Cannonball to meet them.
In Blackwall, Nightcrawler, Meggan, Kitty and Wolfsbane, the remaining members of Excalibur, race towards the center, where Meggan feels the source of all their troubles is. Wolfsbane tells everybody to stop, when a strange alien appears before them, and as she sniffs the surrounds, she tells her teammates that while it smells like techno-organics, it moves like the Brood. Meggan reminds everyone of how Shadowcat said there was a techno-organic version of the Brood at the Dream Nails Station. Meggan tells everyone that if these ones are techno-organic also, then she can grab at their electromagnetic fields, pushing them back, hopefully before they get her. She tells her friends to keep going, while she holds the creatures back. As Nightcrawler, Kitty and Wolfsbane dash away, Meggan tells Kurt to keep going straight, that the source is right down the end of this corridor. And then there were three.
Not long down the corridor, the trio comes across a mysterious man, who after ordering them to halt introduces himself as the Red King. With his sword in hand, he tells the mutants that what lies beyond the door they wish to go through is his, and not to be touched by anyone else. If they dare to trespass, he tells them, he will kill them. Nightcrawler tells Shadowcat to phase Wolfsbane and herself past him and through the door. Reaching for his sword he tells the Red King that if it is a sword fight he wants, he is happy to oblige.
Back in central London, still ablaze, Wisdom and Scratch continue their battle, in silence. They don't need to speak, as hate does enough shouting for everyone. Scratch knocks Wisdom over, sending him flying through a department store window. He asks Wisdom why he hates him, and supposes it is because he doesn't have to think about what he does. Scratch continues jibbing Wisdom by telling him that killing him is like killing children... too easy, but fun in its own way. As Scratch sets alight a teddy bear, a bloody hand grabs his ankle. Wisdom crawls into sight, hotknives charged, they both yell "Don't move!"
As the Red King lunges forward at Nightcrawler, Excalibur's leader laughs as he jumps out of the King's way, asking him if that that was the best move he had. He tells the King that if he knew he was going to be fighting against an arthritic elephant, he would have worn a blindfold. They meet eye to eye. Kurt asks the Red King to lay down his sword, as he has no desire to hurt him any further. Perhaps slightly mad, the Red King says that he is rich, powerful and in love, and he will destroy Nightcrawler. Kurt asks the King why love wants to make him stab people. The King does not answer, and even after Nightcrawler teleports away, the Red King lunges forward. Nightcrawler thinks that this was not love, but brain damage, though he can understand the confusion between the two some days.
Back in the Hellfire Club building, Mountjoy tells Captain Britain that as much as he hates to resort to something as crude as firearms, he cannot allow this to happen. As Brian crouches over the limp body of Ms. Steed, Mountjoy tells Brian he will appreciate these guns, as they are filled with the anti-mutant ammunition Brian's father worked on while he was with the Hellfire Club. The Club also exported the ammunition to Genosha for quite a lot of money. It was that incident which caused Sir James Braddock to resign his title of Bishop, as he thought his theories would be applied to a benevolent mutant detector for the government.
Brian asks Mountjoy what his angle was, and why he entered the Hellfire Club. The evil Mountjoy tells Brian so he could eventually run Britain's elite, and the Club's special project. With that he could have ruined any country, even America, use them for pens for human cattle - his food. He fires two bullets at Brian Braddock, before jumping out of a window, reminded that he is hungry for another body to steal. Live bullets begin to eat away at Brian's protective forcefield. He has seen them before, and in seconds they will be through, biting into his internal organs.
Beneath the lab complex on Muir Island, Xavier protocol number 1-3-9 is currently being displayed - Cable. Moira listens intently as Xavier tells those present the best way to kill Cable... by taking advantage of his weakness, the techno-organic virus, which keeps his telekinesis occupied permanently. The preferred result being the disease devouring Cable's brain and major organs. Betsy puts a comforting hand on Cyclops as he learns the best way to kill his son.
Moira cannot stand this any more, and tells the computer to download the protocols. With that done, Moira tells the X-Men that the specs for the armor are on this file, along with the protocols. Still crying, Jean tells Moira they have to leave, and as the two old friends hug, Moira reminds Phoenix that they all have things to do - just take care.
At the Blackwall, Nightcrawler teleports into the Necromation, curious as to what is in there. But he is stopped short in his tracks when he sees his "mother" Margali. Her now-withered body stuck to Douglock's head still. Wolfsbane and Shadowcat come up from behind Kurt, and Rahne tells Nightcrawler that his eyes are dead, he cannot see her. Sitting with a laptop computer, Kitty tells Nightcrawler that there is a lot of documentation's in here, some of it they weren't finished on. He asks if any of it is use to them. Kitty tells him it might be, if she can get the laptop connected to Douglock. Wolfsbane hasn't taken her eyes off her friend, and sadly mumbles that they unraveled him.
Kitty realizes that he is being used as a link to the power source beneath London. Holding up the laptop plug, Kitty looks rather embarrassed at her solution of how to link the computer up. As she apologizes to Douglock, she sticks the plug into his unraveled form.
For what must be the umpteenth time in the same day, a bubble teleport signature appears, and Amanda Sefton finally arrives at her long-intended destination. As she lands, she mentions to a shocked Nightcrawler that she thought she would never get here, they traffic was terrible! Nightcrawler asks his foster sister what she is doing here, and what happened to her, she is a mess. Daytripper tells him that it is all their "mother's" fault. She tells her friends that the power source they are looking for is that of a demon, locked under London. Amanda tells Kurt he has to get her there before he snacks again.
Computer-genius Kitty realizes that by reading Douglock's brain as a disk drive, it can give her a root directory, reading files by date... and with a deep breath, she deletes the newest file.
Mountjoy runs, contemplating his next move - getting something to eat, then hiding out for a while, and be glad he didn't get a beating. He has had worse days, and it is not like he just went up against Bishop and the X-Men or anything... He doesn't see him coming. Captain Britain appears almost from nowhere, as he punches Mountjoy telling him of course it is not like fighting the X-Men - he is dealing with professionals here. Standing above Mountjoy, holding his wound, Brian mentions everything that has gone on over the last while... shapeshifters, mad rich people, and having to twist around inside his forcefield to avoid living bullets - that is it for him. Mountjoy stretches out one arm up from the rubble he lay under, and Brian tells him not to bleed so loudly, as he is giving him a headache.
Back in the department store, Scratch has the upper hand, powers charged, and looming over Wisdom. But as a huge flame appears, scorching him, he cries out in pain and falls over. Wisdom wonders where the flame came from. Lockheed flies into view, telling Wisdom that he still hates him. Wisdom smiles gratefully, and tells the dragon that the first chance he gets, he is flushing him down a toilet.
In the Blackwall, Douglock says he is having an appalling day. Kitty tells everyone that she found the software Black Air used to remove Douglock's control over his own body, and deleted it. Douglock reminds everyone of another problem, that he is still hardwired to the tomb, and cannot just yank himself free. If he could, he would breach the tomb, breaking the original binding around the demon.
Gritting her teeth, Daytripper tells everyone she can handle that, it is why she is here. But asks how they get Douglock free of it? Wolfsbane asks Douglock if it will hurt him, and he simply says he wants to go home. Claws outstretched, Rahne Sinclair tells him he will, and that she can cut him loose. Nightcrawler asks Amanda what will happen to their mother when they break the link. His sister tells him she doesn't know, but if it is bad, then she deserves it. With Margali still attached, Douglock tells Kurt how far below the tomb is. Nightcrawler hesitates, glaring at his mother... and then teleports Daytripper, Wolfsbane and himself below.
Amanda tells Wolfsbane to go, and the lupine girl lunges forward, her sharp claws cut right through Douglock's body, connected to the source. Within the tomb, the devil stirs. But Daytripper summons the last of her strength, and magic lights up the sewer gloom. As a hole appears in the devils' prison, it lunges forward towards freedom. Even with Amanda binding the hole, it could still break through... if it hadn't eaten so much, and as Amanda finishes the binding spell, the demon sticks one hand through, as the hole closes up.
Back above, Margali Szardos begins to scream... and continues to as she fades away.
After some time, Excalibur begin to regroup, and get out of the Blackwall. They are somewhat surprised to see not only the police and army present, but emergency services from outside the city. An officer comes up to the heroes, asking for Nightcrawler. He tells him that he has instructions from the intelligence services, to escort Excalibur to their plane, with thanks.
Wisdom tells his teammates that Jardine, and the rest of Intel got out of London like he told them to and dealt with the emergency services. Black Air and the Hellfire Club are finished with, and Excalibur gets the credit. Making a joke about how his teammates do not like him smoking, Wisdom waves a cigarette around, telling them that he has "bloody earned it".