The song Firestarter by Prodigy plays loudly in the background as Piotr Rasputin, a.k.a. Colossus, one of Britain’s premiere super heroes in Excalibur, paints. Colossus also happens to be the last living member of his family. His parents – Nikolai and Alexandra were murdered by agents of their own government. His older brother and former Soviet cosmonaut Mikhail has since exhibited reality warping powers and a penchant for evil. For all Piotr knows, his one-time hero – who has since become the insane ruler of an extradimensional world populated by mutants is dead. As for his baby sister – his precious “Little Snowflake” Illyana – though but a child, she was counted among the first casualties to fall in what has since become an uphill battle against the merciless Legacy Virus. Suffice to say, Colossus’ life has not been easy.
The day he left the Ust-Ordinski Collective and emigrated to the U.S.A at the behest of Professor Charles Xavier, to become a member of the outlaw band of mutant heroes known as the X-Men, Piotr vowed to do what he believed was best for himself and his loved ones. But when those dearest to his heart were tragically taken from him, and all that remained was a world hating and fearing him for his genetic difference, a part of Piotr Rasputin died in a grim, violent death and his vow – his personal oath – became a burden greater than even this stalwart young man could bear.
Siding with the X-Men’s greatest enemy – the infamous Master of Magnetism, Magneto as one of his loyal Acolytes, Colossus hoped to alleviate the guilt gnawing at his conscience by taking a more aggressive approach at solving the mutant / human controversy. But instead, he not only managed to cut himself off from all his friends, he nearly became that which he had pledged his life to defend against. Now with the international band of heroes known globally as Excalibur, Piotr is once more trying to make amends so that someday, the Rasputin family need not end with him.
‘Can I look Piotr? Can I look? Please! Please! Please! Can I?’ asks the excited elemental known as Meggan as she hovers over Piotr while he paints. Colossus tells Meggan that she cannot just yet, and asks her to use her powers to hover still, for another few moments. He informs her that he is trying something a bit different with this piece. He recalls that it has been such a long time since he has touched a canvas and wanted – needed – to see how he has changed.
Colossus tells Meggan that this surprise she has asked him to help her prepare for Brian is the perfect – as Doctor MacTaggert would put it – “Litmus test” – for his maturation, both artistically and personally. He makes just one more smudge before announcing that it is finished and tells Meggan that she may now look.
Hands behind her back, the blonde Faerie looks somewhat bewildered and admits that she does not know what to say, before declaring that she has never seen anything like it before. Colossus holds up a hand, thinking Meggan doesn’t like it, he asks if his art fails to imitate life. ‘Absolutely “Nyet” you big Russian silly!’ Meggan exclaims smiling before telling Colossus that his technique and interpretation is all so random and chaotic. Looking at her teammate, Meggan tells him that it feels so much like she is looking at her own reflection in a looking glass.
Meggan steps in some red paint on the floor as she tells Piotr his painting is ‘simply beautiful’ She informs Piotr that she loves the painting and loves him for doing it. She promises him Brian will love it too, for it is the perfect wedding gift! The red paint drips from Meggan’s foot as she takes flight, reminding her “Tovarisch” that it is their little secret. Colossus looks up at his beautiful teammate and tells Meggan that Magneto himself could not part it from his armored lips, while thinking that Brian Braddock is a lucky man to have someone who loves him so.
A “Bamf” sounds the arrival of Colossus’ longtime friend Kurt Wagner a.k.a. Nightcrawler who asks Piotr what this is he hears about a “secret” and asks if there is something going on that his swashbuckling team leader should know about. Colossus smiles and jokingly tells Kurt that unlike fine wine, the brimstone stench of his teleport does not improve with age. Kurt tells Colossus that he is sorry he thinks so, ‘because you’re about to get a nose full of it!’ and quickly teleports him away …
… to the lab, where Piotr informs Kurt that the next time he wants him in the lab to call first. Kurt replies that he will take it under advisement before turning to the handsome Brian Braddock – a.k.a. Britain’s finest hero – Captain Britain – and asks him what the word is. Brian looks at his teammates and tells them that the “word” is that someone has reactivated the mainframe at Colossus’ old “hole in the ground” in Australia. Brian informs them that a prototype satellite he designed tracked the signal during an orbital test run. He reveals that it seems Colossus’ old chums the Acolytes are back in business, as they have sent a message.
Brian turns on the computer monitor, and the devoted Acolyte Joanna Cargill, formerly known as “Frenzy” appears on screen. She greets Colossus and tells him that she doesn’t know if he made it to Earth safely or not, but figured that his armored hide would have tipped the scales in his favor. She adds quietly that Colossus was always the strong one, before getting to her point – the flock has been gathered to raise Avalon again – and now more than ever the Acolytes need his strength.
Nightcrawler looks worried and tells the others he thought Avalon was destroyed by Holocaust. Colossus mutters that unfortunately Holocaust didn’t do a good enough job of it, and reveals that Avalon fragmented into many large salvageable chunks, and thinks it is possible that Cargill and the more industrious Acolytes have gathered. Brian asks who could have coordinated such an effort, and Piotr declares that there can only be one man – Exodus!
Exodus’ face appears on the computer screen and Colossus declares that if there is a begin alive that is charismatic enough to win the hearts and minds of his former Acolyte comrades – whether by physical coercion of psionic control – then it is he. Frowning, Colossus tells the other men that they must learn what scheme Exodus plans to let loose on the world, and to do so, he knows he must confront the very people he has tried so hard to distance himself from – ‘I must face the Acolytes!’ he exclaims.
Meanwhile, on the North Shore of Muir Island, home of Excalibur and also legendary scientist Doctor Moira MacTaggert, owner of the island and its research center. Sitting out on a small balcony, she ignores the falling snow as she writes a email on her laptop computer.
My dearest Charles. No matter how hard I try otherwise, I cannot stop thinking about Joe. The day he died, I felt an enormous weight had been lifted from my shoulders. I was free of the heartache and constant bickering and the pain of knowing my husband – the man I loved was out and out “bam”. And then I think about our boy, my wee Kevin – the child Joe and I both failed – and I cannot help but miss that ol’ “slag”. I always knew that time and distance can change your perspective on things – give a person 20/20 hindsight and all – but I never realized how much focus proximity can provide. I wonder, will they welcome me when I see them again?
Unblinking, Moira’s sad face looks at her email as she doubts that the government is going to let Charles check his email, though finds some comfort in the fact that the message will be waiting for him when he gets back. She only hopes she will be waiting too. She clicks “send”, but a message appears: Error! That mailbox is no longer available, your e-mail has been deleted. ‘Why ye stupid bleedin’…grrr…’
Moira pulls her legs up under her chin, hugging herself as she admits it is hard getting used to Charles not being around. Moira knows that Charles has been such an important part of her life for so many years – they have shared such a special bond as best friends, and even as “Best friends with benefits” for a time, that she cannot imagine life without him. Moira begins to cry, for she knows that there is no telling when Xavier is going to be getting his freedom, so she realizes she will have to get used to it, as well as her recent infection – alone.
Walking along the beach of Muir Island is Kitty Pryde and Pete Wisdom. Pete tells Kitty not to worry, as that swill MacTaggert calls “coffee” should keep her innards toasty until next winter. Kitty wonders why she is not surprised that Pete doesn’t find this weird – for Moira has been sitting out in the middle of the blizzard for days. ‘Guess she just fancies the view from that balcony’ Pete jokes as he embraces his lover. Kitty replies ‘maybe’ before informing Pete that it is no ordinary balcony – it is her son Kevin’s room.
Kitty reveals to Pete that Moira once told her how before Kevin died, the two of them would sit up there for hours, waiting for the supply barges bringing the resources that treated Kevin’s mutations. Kitty pauses before telling Pete that in all the time she has known Moira, she has never gone up there since. Pete tells Kitty that it looks to him as if Moira is waiting for her own ship to come in. He exclaims that MacTaggert may be a shrew, but doesn’t think anyone deserves to suffer the way she is.
‘Why Pete Wisdom – I do believe a sentimental bone doth grow in your body at last!’ jokes Kitty. A ‘Bamf’ signals the arrival of Nightcrawler who tells the happy couple that he hates to interrupt their tender moment but that they have a crisis on their hands. Kurt’s sudden arrival caused Kitty to become intangible and phase through Wisdom, who makes some comment that Kurt ignores, instead telling them that Captain Britain and Meggan are not coming as they are going to London on a “personal errand”. He informs them that everyone is loaded into the Midnight Runner as Kitty asks them where they are going. ‘Australia’ Kurt replies solemnly.
Within five minutes, the remainder of Excalibur has assembled in the hangar bay and two minutes later they are airborne in the team’s hypersonic transport. Kurt whispers to Kitty and Wisdom that he wants the both of them to keep a close eye on Piotr, for although it has been a while, he is concerned about how he is going to react to being “Down Under” again. Kitty tells Kurt that she understands, but points out that it looks like Rahne is already “point-person” on this one.
Colossus stands up in the Midnight Runner and watches a view-screen closely as Rahne “Wolfsbane” Sinclair – Moira MacTaggert’s foster daughter – comes up to him and tells him he should be buckled in. Rahne jokes that Kitty may be a whiz with computers, but she doesn’t exactly trust her piloting skills. Piotr replies that Kitty is a fine pilot and will get them there safely. Rahne asks Colossus if he is sure about that and tells him by the looks of him, and the fact he remains in his organic steel form, she thinks he is just the least bit nervous about something.
In her wolfen form, Rahne sniffs her teammate and informs Piotr that she can smell the tension on him. She asks Colossus to tell her what is wrong, and tells him that if he returns to his human form, then so will she – which she does. ‘Och, the poor lad!’ she thinks to herself. Rahne thinks that even after all the good Colossus has been through since joining the team, he is still so guarded, almost as if he trusts no one – especially himself.
Colossus tells Rahne that because of the brash, childish decisions he once made, he knew that his path would one day cross with his former comrades the Acolytes. ‘I just did not expect it to be so soon’ he reveals solemnly. Holding Colossus’ hand, Rahne tells him that at least now he won’t have to face ‘those spaileens by yuir lonesome’. Rahne boasts that she will protect him from those ‘smarmy slags’. Piotr laughs and says ‘Spaceba, Rahne!’
Less than an hour later, the Midnight Runner touches down in the barren region of Australia known as “the Outback”. The terrain is desolate, the climate inhospitable. Yet despite the harsh conditions of the arid plain, for Colossus this is indeed a strange kind of homecoming.
Nightcrawler tells his friends to stay in the Runner while he goes to reconnoiter ahead to make sure the coast is clear, but before Kurt completes the teleport, Colossus pulls him back, for he knows that the slightest misstep by one of them could lead to a funeral. Kurt asks Colossus what he is doing, and Piotr apologizes, admitting that he should have warned everyone earlier that the area surrounding the X-Men’s former base is riddled with hypersensitive land mines. Kurt tells Colossus that that is not the kind of detail one forgets.
Kitty gets up and tells her teammates that she can get across by using her patented “Walking-on-air” trick and that she will be able to deactivate the mines once she is inside, or she could phase through them and disrupt the arming mechanisms. Colossus tells Kitty that she will not be able to do that with these particular mines, as they were programmed to be mutant signature sensitive, for any person whose genetic scan does not check out immediately will detonate them, and at the time the field was laid, they did not have her or Kurt’s DNA.
Wisdom asks Colossus if he remembers where the mines were laid, but Colossus replies ‘Nyet’. Rahne suspects that Colossus did not tell them these things before they left Muir Island on purpose, but doesn’t know why. She asks how then are they going to get across, and as he steps out of the Midnight Runner, Colossus declares that he will go.
As their friend dashes headlong across the minefield, both Nightcrawler and Shadowcat share a sudden realization. “This” they think “Is why Piotr became the person he is now”. “This is why he made the choices he did”. As the mines explode beneath him, scalding his armored feet, seeking to deter him from completing this crucial task, yet failing with each and every detonation, Colossus comes one step closer to exorcising his inner shame. For much like he and his fellows had to adapt to life within this lifeless land, so must he now learn how to adapt to life beyond it.
Standing on the other side of the minefield, Colossus calls to his friends, announcing he has found the hatch to the bunker. ‘Mega mad props to you Piotr’ shouts Kitty. Wisdom asks Kitty to level with him: ‘were you actually in love with that psycho?’ he asks. In reply, Kitty asks Wisdom if he is now starting to see a pattern. ‘I’ll say’ Wisdom smiles. Kurt and Rahne make their ways across the minefield as Colossus lifts up the hatch and asks them to be careful, as the Acolytes have always been a duplicitous lot.
Colossus enters the hatch, thinking about himself he wonders if he too wears two faces, or if he has truly moved on from the life he once led. He has little time to ponder that however as the hatch slams closed behind him, forcing him towards his meeting with destiny.
Kurt calls to Piotr as he tells Excalibur to get the hatch open, and he teleports in, however as he braves the unknown to save his friend, the “unknown” discourages his rescue attempt, by shocking him back with an electro-static field blocking his teleport.
Later, after locating an unguarded entrance, Kitty, Kurt, Wisdom and Rahne pause for a moment. Rahne asks her team leader if he is still hurting, and Kurt replies that it was his pride that was hurt the most. Kitty exclaims that they have to get down into the bunker somehow, but Wisdom tells her to ‘give it a rest, luv’ suggesting that whoever trapped “Comrade Metalhead” down there, it is obvious that this is something he is going to have to face alone.
Below, Piotr is suspended in a exoskeleton forcefield while he calls to his “captors” asking to be released from the forcefield, warning them not to give him reason to harm them. An Acolyte calls to Piotr, asking him to drop the “Tough Guy” routine Petey Pureheart, for they know he wouldn't hurt a fly – let alone his former allies! Two Acolytes come into view – the young, most sympathetic Acolyte to Xavier’s cause Scanner, and one of the least sympathetic – Carmella Unuscione, the daughter of Unus the Untouchable.
Colossus is surprised to see the two women as Carmella exclaims ‘Avalon rises again, X-Man!’ She narrows her eyes as she tells Colossus that if he is wise, then he will rejoin them in fulfilling mutantkind’s destiny. Colossus asks what will happen if he doesn’t, and tells Carmella that he doesn’t think she will use her exoskeleton to crush him. Carmella tells Piotr to revert to his human form and she will let him go. Colossus agrees, but knows that he is near-invulnerable while transformed, but susceptible to injury as any man without his armor. However, Colossus suspects that this particular conflict requires much more than just brute force.
Carmella releases Piotr from her forcefield and tells him that he is a lot braver than she thought, letting his guard down like that. Colossus tells Unuscione that he knows she did not come all this way to test his mettle. Carmella agrees and tells Colossus again that they want him back where he belongs, on Avalon. She reveals that it was Cargill’s idea, adding that Joanna respects him for the individuality he displayed whilst he was a member of the Acolytes.
The plucky Scanner smiles and tells Colossus that now that he is back they can all contribute something to Exodus’s new Avalon and make tomorrow a better day for their mutant brothers and sisters! Colossus puts his hands on his former allies; shoulder as he asks her if she is certain she has made the right decision. Scanner replies that of course she is, they all are. ‘That’s not a bad thing…is it?’ she asks quietly. Colossus tells Scanner to listen to him carefully, admitting to her that as of late he has sought answers to the doubts that linger within him.
Colossus calmly tells Scanner that like her, he once believed he could make a greater difference in the world by following someone else’s example – instead of leading by his own. He declares that he will never again live like that, and tells Scanner that she should not either. Carmella knows how susceptible Scanner is and so ends Colossus’ talk with her quickly by exclaiming that the Acolytes understand their place in the bigger picture.
Carmella pulls Scanner back with her exoskeleton, declaring that this was pointless. Suspended in her teammate’s forcefield, Scanner asks Carmella what she should do. Colossus tells the young Acolyte that only she can decide that for herself, but that she would know this – ‘stand with a madman like Exodus and yours shall be a destiny fraught with disaster’. He adds that he knows this from experience.
Scanner, released from the exoskeleton, asks Carmella if this is true, ‘are you positive we are not making a terrible mistake?’ Arms folded across her chest, the sultry Acolyte tells Scanner not to be ridiculous, and asks if it isn't obvious to her that their former comrade lacks the vision and the individuality Scanner thinks so highly of him blinds the truth.
Furious, Carmella turns back to Colossus and tells him that this was his one and only chance, but now he has drawn the “line in the sand” this day, and as the girls are propelled out of the complex by Scanner’s power, Carmella warns him no to cross that line, or else next time they meet, he should not expect the Acolytes to be so “cordial”. Colossus calls to Scanner, ‘Nyet!’ he calls, wanting her to come back.
Above, Colossus bursts his way into the room where his four teammates are waiting and Kitty asks him what happened down there. Colossus informs her that he would rather not talk about it right now. He ponders the future of Scanner – the young girl who reminds him of himself in so many ways – and so does one of his teammates – Pete Wisdom – who draws a most unlikely connection to him.
With the mission complete, Excalibur returns to Muir Island, and though there were no physical casualties to speak of this time, Piotr Rasputin still remains troubled. Slumped over in the Midnight Runner, Piotr declares he wishes Scanner and Carmella would have listened to him. Wisdom tells Colossus that though it is tough to get other people to see their own mistakes, it is by far tougher facing your own. Colossus declares that he knows his choices have caused too many people too much pain already and refuses to let the decisions he make cause any more.
Wisdom, cigarette in hand, tells Piotr that the way he sees it, though he admits he is not an expert, ‘if an obstinate Ukrainian ox like yourself can admit the error of his ways and learn from them’ then he thinks there is hope for anyone. Colossus looks at Wisdom and tells him that perhaps he is right, but only prays that it will be neither too little, nor too late.