Above Cape Wraith, the northernmost coast of Scotland…flies a man on a mission! The mission though, is nether a top secret, classified mission, nor one upon which the fate of humanity depends. His name is Sean Cassidy a.k.a. Banshee, and although he has seen plenty of those kinds of missions in his career, first as an Interpol agent, then as a member of the outlaw band of mutant heroes known as the X-Men. On this particular night, Banshee has undertaken the kind of mission by which the truest heroes are judged. A mission of mercy.
Flying high above the icy waters in the pouring rain, Banshee was bound for his new home at the Xavier School for Gifted Youngsters in Snow Valley, Massachusetts. A suitcase full of fond memories and a weekend well-spent with the woman he loves by his side…Banshee left the world-renowned genetic research center at Muir Island, relaxed, rejuvenated, and ready to resume his role as mentor to Generation X, the next generation of mutants on the other side of the Atlantic. But that was before the call.
‘Faster, man! Faster!’ Sean tells himself. ‘Times a wastin’!’ His sonic scream resonates through the stormy zone as he screeches his way back to Muir Island, thinking to himself that he has never heard Wolfsbane so frightened, so absolutely terrified in all his life, and recalls that he could hardly get Rahne to calm down and explain what was happening, and even then he is still not quite sure what she meant.
Down on the water, a small boat is tossed around by the waves, and a crewman covers his ears while calling out to his captain, asking what that noise is, exclaiming that it isn’t human. ‘Sure it ain’t!’ the captain replies as he thrusts an arm in the air angrily, ‘It’s another one of them bleeding super heroes! One of those muties no doubt!’
Banshee approaches the dock and recalls how Wolfsbane kept repeating “Moira’s killing herself” over and over. ‘But how?’ Sean wonders - not to mention why. Down on the dock, Rahne “Wolfsbane” Sinclair clasps her hands together as she sees Banshee and exclaims that he made it, while Banshee’s former fellow X-Man, Piotr “Colossus” Rasputin greets his friend, pointing out that it has been a long time since they have seen each other. Banshee greets them and asks if one of them would please explain to him what is going on around here.
Rahne rushes over and hugs Banshee when he lands, and teary-eyed, she exclaims that she is so glad he is here, as he has got to talk Lady Moira out of this. ‘Its…suicide!’ she exclaims. Sean tells Rahne to take it easy, that no one is going to do anything stupid like that, not so long as they are here. ’Right, Rasputin?’ he asks Colossus. Colossus shifts into his metal form and shakes Banshee’s hand as he agrees. ’Ouch! Still got that iron grip, eh, Colossus?’ Sean jokes. Piotr laughs, before asking Banshee how he is, and if his powers are holding up as well. ’Providing a fine example for your students?’ he asks.
Banshee replies that, considering what his charges - Jubilee, M, Husk, Synch, Chamber and Skin - have just lived through, it is hard to tell if he and the White Queen are making a difference in their lives, explaining that he and Emma tried to hide their students from the black-guard Bastion’s “Zero Tolerance”, but that it was only a matter of time before their cover was blown.
(Shown with flashback illustrations)
Banshee reveals that Bastion kidnapped Jubilee, and no one knows what kind of atrocities he subjected her to, but somehow she managed to escape, while the rest of the kids fled West to Los Angeles - but that didn’t stop the Prime Sentinels from hunting them clear across the country. Banshee exclaims that he is relieved they all survived relatively intact, before remarking that those few days he spent fretting over his charges really reminded him of how important their extended family is - not just the world, when times are tough for homo sapiens and homo superior, but to each other - like his recent weekend with Moira.
The rain still continues to beat down, and a disheveled Sean remarks that he thought his and Moira’s little picnic had knocked a modicum of sense into her head, that she finally understood it is okay to get away from the lab, away from her Legacy Virus research so that her mind could heal, even though her body cannot. Colossus tells Banshee that it was a valiant attempt, albeit futile, pointing out that he, of all people, should know how Moira gets. ‘Obsessive. Fanatical. Driven’. Rahne then adds ‘To the edge of a deep, dark hole from which there is no return, we fear’, before Colossus remarks that if there is anyone in the world who can bring Moira back from that brink…’It’s the man she loves!’ Rahne concludes as the trio head towards the research center.
Deep within the halls of Excalibur’s home and headquarters, Douglock, the techno-organic being, sits slumped in a corridor, where doors closed hours ago - ten hours to be precise, and counting. Six hundred minutes, more precisely, and counting - thirty-six thousand seconds, still even more precisely, and counting. To an impatient human, ten hours, no matter how it is sliced, can seem like a mighty long time. But to a being whose temporal sensors are exponentially more acute than even the finest Swiss chronographs…ten hours is an eternity.
Douglock’s waiting is soon interrupted by the return of Wolfsbane, Colossus and Banshee. Rahne asks her friend how the vigil is going. ‘Slowly and without incident’ Douglock replies, remarking that Dr. MacTaggert is deadly serious about going through with this. ‘Going through with what?’ Banshee asks, remarking that they are all sounding like Moira has just signed her last will and testament. Rahne hangs her head as she tells Banshee that to be precise, Moira has done just that. Rahne explains that Moira has decided the next step for her to take to fight that sickness which is eating her up inside, the best way to study the progression of her infection - is to place herself under quarantine - Indefinitely. ‘Saints preserve me…’ Sean whispers.
Behind the door, sits a woman with a mission. Sitting at a sprawling computer system, her fingers dance across the keys of the complex network with the deftness of a concert pianist. The inside of this lab has been the whole of her world every day for what seems like countless months. But so much more than just the future of mutant kind hangs in the balance now - so much more than even her own life…for Nobel-prize winning Dr. Moira MacTaggert is on a mission of hope. ‘Life support…? Check. Food supplies…? Check. Temporary vaccines…? Check’ Moira announces. The good Doctor also knows that, if she fails to find a cure for the deadly Legacy Virus…all humanity may likely be doomed.
Moira smiles as she looks at a photograph of Sean while remarking that everything checks out, so all that is left to do is seal the door and get on with it. She admits that she is going to miss everyone, and is therefore glad that she and Sean had one last moment together. ‘And who said it has to be the last?’ Banshee exclaims as he enters the lab. ‘Who the bloody - Sean!’ Moira exclaims with shock as she puts on her quarantine suit. Sean approaches Moira and tells her that he thinks she is making a big mistake. Wide-eyed, Moira asks Sean what he is talking about, remarking that it is just another day of research for her.
‘You call a bloody quarantine “research?”!’ Sean exclaims, before asking Moira to listen to reason for once. ‘You don’t have to do this!’ he tells her. Moira holds out an arm to keep Sean at bay as she replies ‘But don’t you understand, Sean? I do have to!’ Banshee looks at a screen which depicts images of other Legacy Virus victims and asks Moira why she has to do this alone, suggesting that the Beast could help her.
Moira adjusts her equipment before remarking that Meggan drew her attention to this when she called the Legacy Virus a “designer gene”, adding that Meggan’s insight lead her to discover a crucial detail about the virus’ nature, so if she doesn’t do something about it immediately. ‘May God have mercy on all our souls…the human race is going to be extinct!’ Moira shouts. Moira tells Sean to look at the following people - all victims of the Legacy Virus - some have died, some are living with the sickness, and while there seems to be no over correlation from one victim to the next, she believes that they all share one very common - and terrifying threat.
Moira asks what link could exist between Mastermind, an illusionist…Infectia, a biohazardist…Illyana, a teleporter…Revanche, a telepath…Multiple Man, a geneto-multiplier…Pyro, a pyrotechnic…Maverick, a kinetic energy absorber…Chris Bradley, an electro-generator… ‘And last but not least, me - a non-mutant host for a mutant-specific disease? None right? Wrong!’ Moira exclaims that this seemingly random dispersal proves, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the “natural” pattern of the Legacy Virus is one of chaos - a genetic anarchy fomented by the ultimate “chaos-bringer”…Stryfe!
Banshee asks Moira what it is she is saying - that Stryfe was an “equal opportunity executioner?” that there is nether reason nor rhyme to this, that it is just dumb luck that certain people got sick while others haven’t - and that anyone, at any time, could be infected too? ‘Homo sapiens or homo superior?’ Moira hangs her head as she replies ‘Aye. Legacy’s as unpredictable as it is airborne, Sean’. Moira goes on to say that she has a bad feeling that any moment now, people - regardless of their genetic predisposition - are going to start falling like dominoes, which is why she has got to do something to give them a fighting chance at life. ‘To keep their hope alive!’
‘But at the risk of your own?’ Sean asks. ‘Comes with the territory - you know that!’ Moira replies as she places a hand on Sean’s face. ‘Aye, it’s just…no. You’re right’ he remarks. ‘As always’ Moira exclaims taking her seat again, while Sean thinks to himself that he should tell Moira he is worried sick. That he should tell Moira she is as stubborn as old Ahab himself, chasing a “white whale” that could be the death of her!’ Walking back towards the entrance to the lab, Sean thinks that, better yet, he could not tell Moira anything. Support her decision and encourage her to do what she must - ‘And pray that her daughter ever forgives you!’
Back outside the lab, the tension between Wolfsbane and Douglock is palpable. She feels like she is losing her heart, while he wants to give his to her. ‘Rahne…about what happened last week…’ Douglock begins, until Rahne, who is pacing about interrupts, telling him that now is not the time. But Douglock asks Rahne to let him finish, remarking that she knows how much he values their friendship, and pointing out that she has been so sweet and kind to him ever since they met, which he is eternally grateful for.
Rahne and Douglock get close, and Douglock announces that his feelings for her are much stronger, much deeper, than just the human definition of friendship. ‘You might call it a “Phalanx thing”, we are a collective consciousness’ Douglock remarks, before explaining that when separated from the collective for extended periods of time, it is their bio-technological imperative to reach out to someone special so that they might form a gestalt…a link. ‘Without such a connection we are lost. I am lost’.
Douglock informs Rahne that, as she is his closest friend on this planet, he would like her to be that link - someday, when she is ready. Rahne tells Douglock that he is so sweet, when suddenly, with a silence that speaks louder than words, Banshee emerges from the lab…and all the walls Rahne erected to dam the inevitable tide of tragedy she feared would wash over her…crumble…as she asks Sean if he got Moira to change her mind. ‘Didn’t you?’ Banshee puts a hand on Rahne’s shoulder and tells her that they need to talk, and begins to lead her down the corridor away from the lab, with Douglock following, thinking to himself that it kills him to see Rahne like this, that he wants to reach out, to join with her, so that his inner strength might revitalize her and eradicate her pain. ‘After all, that’s what my people do in times of internal systems crisis…alas, that is not the way of the humans. They must find other ways to mend their wounds. Somehow - some way - I will help men Rahne’s’.
Meanwhile, Pete Wisdom is a man who hates missions. Missions remind him of Black Air. Black Air reminds him of his past. A past that has, despite his best efforts, come back to haunt him and his newfound associates with a vengeance. Most specifically, Excalibur’s leader - Nightcrawler. Wisdom taps away at Excalibur’s semi-functional mutant tracking system, Cerebro as he smokes a cigarette and searches for his missing colleague. ‘Come on you blasted machine, do what you’re built for!’ Wisdom exclaims with his thick accent. ‘Lock on to Wagner’s metagenetic signature…and find him!’
The Cerebro unit begins to scan, then suddenly shorts out. Wisdom yanks the cybernetic helmet off his head and tosses it in the air, ‘That’s it!’ he exclaims, declaring that he and Shadowcat, his girlfriend, are going to have words when she gets back here. ‘”Cerebro is so simple” she says!’ Pete mocks as he unleashes a hot knife from his finger. ‘”Any moron born with half a brain can learn how to use it” she says!’ he mocks again as his hot knife courses through the helmet, destroying it. ‘Stupid bloody computers’ Wisdom, grunts as he stomps his way out of the communications room. Pete does not like missions at all - especially not the kinds for which he is directly responsible. But with Pete out of the room, the computer lights up, as it has located a teleporter signature in Italy. And little does Wisdom realize, that his mission has just begun.
Elsewhere within the Muir Island Research Center, the powerful elemental Meggan sits alone in her room as she reads a letter she has received from her fiancée, Brian Braddock a.k.a. Captain Britain.
Dearest Meggan, I know it’s been a while since my last letter, and I’m awfully sorry, but things have taken a turn for the weird here in Darkmoor, and I’m afraid my little mission to “find myself” has yielded some rather surprising and unexpected results. Suffice to say, by the time I return to Excalibur, the Brian Braddock you first fell in love with shall be back in your arms…Captain Britain will ascend to his former glory, befitting a true protector of the realm…and we shall at last become the people we have tried so hard, for so long, to be...husband and wife.
From my heart to yours, Brian.
Meggan leaps into the air, and screams, ‘YAAAAYYY!’ as she holds the letter close to her heart. Suddenly, there is a knock at the door, Colossus enters, ‘Uh, Meggan…? I heard a scream! Is…er…everything all right?’ he asks. Meggan smiles as she replies that everything is just perfect, and sings ‘Brian’s coming home!’ before asking Colossus ‘Isn’t that just wonderful?’. Piotr agrees, and tells Meggan that he is very happy for her. ‘For both of you’ he adds. Meggan’s expression turns from glee to concern as her intuitive abilities detect that Colossus doesn’t sound so happy for her, and asks if something is wrong.
Colossus takes Meggan’s hand and pulls her down out of the air and replies that nothing is wrong…except that Dr. MacTaggert is about to begin her quarantine and she wanted them all to be there. ‘Oh, right. How insensitive of me!’ Meggan remarks, before walking alongside Colossus as they head for Moira’s lab, and Meggan thinks that Piotr is holding back, that something else is bothering him. ‘I can sense it…gosh, I hope it’s not what I think it is…’.
Meanwhile, in another comm-room, ‘She’s really gonna do it, huh? Too little, too late if you ask me!’ the sultry White Queen exclaims to Banshee via holographic imagery. ‘Which I didn’t, Emma!’ Sean replies, remarking that he just called for a bit of emotional support. ‘It’s the least you can give me after all the malarkey you pulled the past few weeks!’ Sean adds. ‘Mistake number one, Sean my boy’ Emma replies. ‘You want my shoulder to cry on…? Expect a cold one’.
‘Begorrah, Frost - have you not a caring bone in your body!?’ Banshee asks. Emma smirks and tells Sean to relax, calling him “Mr. Hypersensitive”, she admits that whether he believes it or not, she does not want Moira locked in her lab anymore than he does. ‘I mean, someone has to play the “fall guy” when this plague starts spreading…ta ta!’ and with that, Emma is gone. ‘That insensitive…self-centered…GRRR!’ Sean thinks to himself, clenching his fists and wondering why he even bothers.
Back at the lab, Rahne enters, and calls out to her mother. Moira looks longingly towards Rahne from within her quarantine suit. They both begin to cry, then embrace each other closely. Rahne asks her mother to please not lock herself away like this, and asks if she cannot just wear the environ-suit out here instead. Moira replies that she wishes it were that simple, before exclaiming that Stryfe engineered the Legacy Virus to be the deadliest plague this world has ever seen, and adds that, for all they know, this suit she is now wearing is no protection against the virus’ constant mutations.
Moira adds that she needs to now examine the effects of this virus on someone totally isolated from anyone or anything. Moira exclaims that this is her life’s mission, the very reason she became a scientist in the first place - to solve the problems that no one else could…regardless of the cost. Moira smiles as she tells Rahne that she knows she is asking a lot, but that she wants her to be strong. ‘For me’. Still crying, Rahne replies that she will, and that she loves her. ‘And I you, Rahne. So much’ Moira replies.
Suddenly, Colossus enters, apologizing for the interruption. Moira and Rahne exit the lab to find Banshee, Meggan, Wisdom and Douglock. Wisdom tells Moira that she can still back out of this, to which Moira replies that she appreciates the sentiment, but that she cannot. ‘I’m going in!’ she declares, before hugging Wisdom, who whispers that he snuck a few kilos of real coffee into the freezer for her. ‘Drinking that swill you brew is bound to ruin your concentration!’ Wisdom remarks. Moira smiles and tells Pete that he is all heart, before turning to Meggan and asking her to tell that rich boyfriend of hers that when he gets back she wants a grant for her next research project. ‘He owes me for what he did to my medical transport!’ she exclaims. Meggan sniffs and replies that she will.
Douglock tells Moira that it has been an honor working with her, to which Moira hugs him and replies that the honor is all hers, as he is the best assistant a scientist could ask for. Moira turns to Colossus and hands him a disk, informing him that it is for Charles and remarking that she would be most grateful if he would give it to Charles - if anything goes wrong, ‘God forbid’. Colossus takes the disk and replies that he will deliver it personally.
‘So’. Moira remarks as she turns to Banshee and takes his hand. ‘So’. Banshee replies, before reminding Moira that there is no turning back once the door seals magnetically shut. ‘No one gets in or out until you’ve found a cure for that damnable disease…’. Moira thanks Sean for not trying to stop her. ‘Would it have done any good if I had?’ Sean asks. ‘Nope’ Moira replies. ‘Thought so’ Sean points out, before declaring ‘You’re the bravest woman I know, Moira MacTaggert’ and placing a kiss on the glass covering her face, before asking her to come back alive. ‘I will love. I promise…’ Moira replies as she waves goodbye from the lab entrance, the doors slowly closing as she enters.
A sobbing Rahne watches. Watches the woman who has been many things to her. ‘Mummy…NO!’ she cries. Moira has been a heroine who rescued her from certain death at the hands of a howling mob. A mother who loved and raised her as if she were her own. A missionary whose charity knew no bounds - even when the sole coin she could offer was her life. But that’s not a donation Wolfsbane is willing to accept, and she suddenly, in lupine form, leaps towards the closing lab doors. ‘Rahne?’ shouts Banshee, ‘Are you crazy lass? The door is on an automated timing sequence!’ But Wolfsbane isn’t interested. ‘Once it closes it can’t be opened - even from the inside!’ Sean adds, while Wisdom calls out for someone to grab her - but it’s too late, and the door slams closed.
A panic-stricken Douglock thinks that there is only one containment suit in there, so Rahne will constantly be exposed to the disease on a concentrated level. ‘NO!’ he shouts as his hands scramble across the door, thinking to himself that he must interface with the mechanism to stop the door - but it’s too late as the lock is in place, and a gutted Douglock slumps to the ground. ‘Too late…’.