Muir Island, dawn, and the elemental Meggan greets the sun rise this morning as she has done for every other morning for the past week: seated on the edge of the docks, her eyes transfixed on the horizon, her empathic senses keening as far as they can. Searching. Searching for her beloved Captain Britain. Searching for signs of life, of human activity. A ship. A raft. A corpse. Anything. She is ever searching. Gulls flock around her as her ankle-length hair flows in the wind. Still there is nothing.
Meanwhile, halfway across the world, in the tropic wilds of Peru, the rest of Excalibur conducts a search of its own…. Inside the Midnight Runner, four members of Europe’s premiere super hero team hovers over a large compound which is protected by a large force field. ‘We’re breaking into that?’ the techno-organic Douglock asks, exclaiming that they are talking about an Operation Zero Tolerance here, ‘It’s a suicide run!’ he adds. Piotr “Colossus” Rasputin tells Douglock that the worst they will suffer is a broken bone or two. ‘Oh that’s reassuring’ Douglock mutters.
Kurt “Nightcrawler” Wagner, Excalibur’s leader, points out that if Professor Xavier is indeed trapped inside as the data Sabra provided them suggests, then it is up to them to liberate him as stealthily as possible. He asks his long time friend and teammate Kitty Pryde if she agrees, to which Kitty replies that she isn’t called “Shadowcat” simply for dressing the past. Colossus reminds Nightcrawler that Bastion proved to be as dangerous a foe as any the X-Men have ever faced, and asks if perhaps they should contact the X-Men. Kurt replies though that there isn’t time, and that they will have to handle this themselves, adding that they owe this to the Professor. ‘I owe it to him’.
Douglock informs everyone that the dome radiates an inordinate amount of psionic static with a distinct telekinetic undercurrent. Nightcrawler asks if he can punch a hole through it, to which Douglock replies that he cannot from this distance. Kurt remarks that psi-static and telekinesis were two of Onslaught’s attributes, to which Kitty reminds him that Onslaught was destroyed, as the Avengers and Fantastic Four saw to that, and it nearly cost them their lives. ‘Which is why I pray we find the Professor inside…and not his evil alter ego!’ Kurt exclaims.
The Midnight Runner is left to hover in the air, while a hatch opens and Kurt remarks that he doubts the red carpet will be rolled out for them, so suggests Colossus try not to attract any undue attention. ‘Of course’ Piotr replies, before dropping off the edge of the hatch, thinking to himself as he falls to the ground in his human form that Kurt is risking a lot with this mission, after all, he blames himself for the Professor’s unfortunate predicament. Piotr does understand Kurt’s feelings though, as the Professor is like a father to them all. ‘Without him, we would not be who we are today. I would be a simple Siberian farm boy - instead of the mutant outlaw Colossus!’ Piotr exclaims as he smacks into the ground, unharmed as he changed to his steel form at the last minute, before he radios to Kurt, informing him that he has touched down and will move in for a closer look.
Kitty radios back, warning Colossus to be careful. Colossus replies that the coast is clear, before exclaiming ’Bozhe moi!’ Nightcrawler teleports down with urgency, asking what is wrong, but sees for himself as Colossus motions to the Prime Sentinels lying on the ground, their bodies ripped open, a mixture of human innards and technology splattered everywhere. Colossus asks what could have done this. ‘Surely not the Professor!’ he exclaims. Kurt covers his mouth and remarks that they will find out for sure inside.
Colossus assures Kurt that he wants to see the Professor safe just as much as he does, but that he believes rushing headlong into the unknown is a mistake. ‘If Cyclops’ leadership has taught us anything, it’s -’ Piotr begins, until Kurt cuts him off, declaring that Cyclops is not here, so it is his call, before asking Piotr to radio to the others and get them to leave the Midnight Runner cloaked and join them down here. Kurt exclaims that he is going inside, hopefully with all of them. ‘Without if not’ he remarks, before teleporting past the force field.
Kitty drops to the ground easily by making herself intangible, reminding Colossus that Kurt has always been his own worst critic, but that he is really being hard on himself this time. She points out that prejudice against mutants and genetophobic groups like Zero Tolerance are no new fad. ‘It’s human nature to fear things we don’t understand’ Kitty adds, while Douglock stumbles down through the trees as the parachute he added to his form gets tangled. Suddenly, he becomes ensnared by a snake. ‘Down boy…uh…girl…whatever you are!’ he cries as the snake wraps itself around him.
While Douglock thrashes about in the branches, Kitty exclaims that they may be different than “normal” people, but that they are all fundamentally the same. Colossus replies that the few bad apples always spoil the bunch, to which Kitty declares that it is up to them to distinguish the good from the bad. ‘Any time you’re ready, Douglock…?’ Kitty adds as she turns to their troublesome teammate. ‘Jungles. I hate jungles!’ Douglock exclaims once he has freed himself from the snake. Kitty tells her friends to brace themselves, as she isn’t sure what effect this telekinetic force field is going to have when they phase through it. ‘Here’s hoping we make it through alive!’ she exclaims before grabbing Piotr and Douglock and jumping through. ‘I wanna go home!’ Douglock exclaims.
‘What? And face Rahne?’ Kitty asks Douglock as the trio emerge in some sort of hallway, reminding Douglock that Wolfsbane is still angry with him for ruining Moira’s experiment. ‘Good point!’ Douglock agrees. Colossus radios to Kurt, informing him that they are in, and ask him what his position is. Kurt replies that he is not exactly sure, as the passages are labyrinthine.
At his location, Kurt creeps along the ceiling, and reports that the architecture is incredible, that it is such a shame Bastion had to sully its ancient beauty with his presence. Kurt adds that the style reminds him of that ancient city on the Blue Area of the Moon. Colossus agrees, and via radio transmission remarks that they should pray they are not visited by a similar tragedy here as they were there, and that this search is a success. ‘Amen’ Kurt agrees, before informing his teammates that he has more eviscerated Prime Sentinels at his location, so he believes he is getting closer to something.
Kurt drops to the ground and wonders what exactly it is he is getting closer to, when suddenly ‘Heeelp…pleeease!’ comes a cry. Kurt radios to the others, asking if they heard it and exclaiming that it felt like a psi-call, so it could be the Professor. Colossus tells his friend to take it easy and not jump to conclusions. Kitty however tells Piotr that there was definitely something there, a familiar sensation, like the first time the Professor “spoke” into her mind, and remarks that maybe Kurt is right, perhaps Charles is here! Douglock announces that he will lock onto Nightcrawler’s situation, and tells Kurt to stay where he is. ‘Oh, I’m not going anywhere!’ Kurt replies as he is suddenly surrounded by…the Original X-Men???
Back in Scotland, Meggan continues to huddle on the edge of the dock. ‘Men. I’ll never understand them!’ she thinks to herself, deciding that Brian Braddock is a fool, going off to “find himself” without his powers. ‘Rubbish!’ Meggan thinks the time has come for Brian to settle down, but wonders if he doesn’t realize what is waiting for him here. ‘A beautiful girl with all the love in her heart just for him’….
Dr. Moira MacTaggert stares down at Meggan from inside her legendary Research Center, thinking that it is shameful how people hurt the ones they love the most. With a cup of coffee - possibly her own infamous brew - in her hands, Moira remarks that people get so caught in themselves, searching for some missing piece of a puzzle that they may never solve, that they forget what is really important. But Moira knows that it is easy for her to accuse Brian, after all, she is as guilty as he is. Moira turns and makes her way through the vast complex, deciding that it is time she started practizing what she preaches, she reminds herself that if it wasn’t for Douglock, she would still be holed up in her lab, searching in vain for a cure to the Legacy Virus.
Now though, Moira knows she can go on living her life instead of fretting it away, waiting for the disease to kill her. Moira decides that some traveling is due, and ponders the idea of going to the School for Gifted Youngsters in Massachusetts to visit Sean - Banshee - then they could jet away and go get lost on a tropical island somewhere, just the two of them. Strolling through the residential wing, Moira decides against it however, feeling that she cannot leave poor Rahne alone like this, not yet, and realizes that Rahne hasn’t come out of her room in days.
Moira knocks on her foster daughter’s door, the reply being ‘If that’s ye again ye asinine alien…? GO AWAY!’ Moira opens the door, ‘And who raised you to talk like that, young lassie? Certainly not I!’ Moira exclaims. Arms folded as she sits sullenly on her bed, Rahne apologizes to her mother. Moira asks Rahne if she is ever going to forgive Douglock, pointing out that she has. Rahne asks why she should, to which Moira quotes “To err is human…to forgive is divine”. Rahne starts sniffing and remarks that Moira sounds like Reverend Craig. ‘I do? Remind me not to say that again!’ Moira exclaims.
Moira explains to Rahne that Douglock was only doing what he thought he was right. ‘At the risk of your life!’ Rahne points, declaring that without a cure, Moira could die. Moira agrees, she could indeed go at anytime, but tells Rahne that is a fear she live with, not her. ‘I want you to live your life like the beautiful girl you are. I want you to be happy!’ Moira exclaims as she hugs Rahne, who asks ‘What about ye?’. Moira replies that since she discovered she was the first non-mutant to be infected with the Legacy Virus, her every waking hour has been spent searching for meaning. ‘To my past…my present…and whatever future I may or may not have. Know what I’ve found? Death is for the dead. May they rest in peace. Life…? Life is for the living’.
Back in Peru, Kitty radios to Kurt, asking him what is happening. ‘I do believe I’ve stepped in it, this time!’ Kurt replies, before leaping back onto the wall as Angel and the Beast lunge at him. ‘Ahh, the tried and true “high/low” combo. Talk about Danger Room 101!’ Kurt exclaims, while Cyclops tells Angel and the Beast to see to it that Nightcrawler does not escape. Beast exclaims that he has got him, but Kurt is too quick for him and he stumbles. ‘Hold still you blue freak!’ Angel shouts while Kurt somersaults through the air, telling the “Original X-Men” that, whoever they are, they will have to be more creative to catch the Xavier School’s “acrobatic achievement” record holder.
Kurt lands in front of Cyclops, who declares ‘We’re the X-Men, mutant. And unless you stop right there…you’re dead!’ Kurt leaps up into the air, dodging a powerful optic blast, he then runs along the ceiling, dodging more blasts while Cyclops exclaims that he is going to fast and cannot draw a bead on him. Kurt suggests that “Cyclops” go off and broods in a corner somewhere before someone gets hurt. ‘Namely me!’ Kurt thinks to himself, while deciding that these faux X-Men are nowhere near the coordinated fighting force the real Original X-Men were.
Nightcrawler realizes he can use this to his advantage, if only he knew whom he was using it against! Kurt decides to make another move before the erstwhile “Slim” Summers, as Cyclops was known then, can fire another optic beam, only to find himself covered in ice. Iceman slides up to Kurt on an ice-sled and exclaims ‘Freakin’ mutie degenerate! We should’ve slaughtered every last one of you when we had the chance!’ Suddenly, Marvel Girl warns him to back off, to which “Iceman” asks ‘Why? So you’ll have another guinea pig for your experiments?’ Marvel Girl frowns ‘Because I said so! I’m supervisor of this facility…and what I say goes!’ she exclaims as her form shifts into that of a Prime Sentinel!
Rather cold with all that ice around him, Kurt shivers ‘M-m-mein g-g-gott!’ You’re…’ the Prime Sentinels finish his sentence for him, declaring that they are the enforces of Bastion’s “final solution” the Prime Sentinels! The others shift back to their true forms also, just as Kitty Pryde phases up through the floor, telling Kurt to have no fear as the cavalry is here, she phases right up through one of the Prime Sentinels, who exclaims that his cybernetics is going haywire, and he cannot compensate.
Colossus and Douglock burst through a nearby wall, while the female Prime Sentinel exclaims ‘David! NO!’ and calls Kitty foolish, as her intangibility is disrupting David’s neural net, effectively killing him! Kitty leaps away, ‘”David”? But I never meant…’ she exclaims, while the Prime Sentinels tend to David, the woman tells Excalibur that they misunderstand, ‘We don’t want to fight you. We need your help!’ she exclaims. ‘You want our help?’ Colossus asks as he helps Nightcrawler down from the ice, while Douglock asks someone to correct him if he is wrong, but he thought the Prime Sentinels were the enemy.
(Shown with flashback illustrations)
The female Prime Sentinel replies that, under different circumstances, they would be enemies, but that this is a matter of life and death for all of them trapped here, human and mutant. She explains that this installation was initially founded as a research facility for an international team of cybernetically-enhanced doctors and scientists devoted to studying the mutant menace - err, question. The woman continues, revealing that once Bastion was captured, their raison d’etre took on a decidedly darker purpose.
The woman adds that, strategically secluded in these Peruvian highlands, they escaped detection by United Nations forces, so here, Zero Tolerance could persevere without interruption. She explains that they took the last remaining evacuees from the North American bases, and that by the time most of the transfers had arrived, they’d been beaten by the more militant base commanders that, and despite the powers the mutants possessed, they had not the capability, nor the will, to rebel. ‘Most…except one!’
The woman explains that using their metamorphic abilities, they assumed an appearance that the mutant held here might find reassuring, anything to keep it from slaughtering them they way it did the others, but she knows that this ruse will not protect them for long. ‘Please, if there is any shred of human decency in you people, help us!’ she pleads. ‘You hunt us, you kill us. But when the tables turn, you want mercy?’ Nightcrawler asks, before declaring that, tempted as he is to leave the Prime Sentinels here to their fate, his conscience will not let him. ‘You see, we mutants are decent human beings. A pity you only realize that…after the damage is done!’.
Excalibur rush off to the location of the mutant, and arrive at a large door. Douglock points out that it might be rigged with explosives, which would certainly give the Prime Sentinels the opportunity to escape. ‘Not to mention blow us all to smithereens!’ he adds, before suggesting that there might be another way out of here, so they could leave and come back with the real X-Men. Kurt tells Douglock to focus, pointing out that they have come too far now to turn back. ‘I believe the Professor is being held prisoner on the other side of this door…and I’m not going home without him!’.
But, as Kurt reaches for the lock’s touch pad, he cries out as a psi-blast strikes his mind. The others feel it too, and Colossus exclaims that they must resist the pain at all costs. Kitty declares that her head feels like it is going to explode, before phasing as a large statue falls down. Kitty thinks it is bad enough her mind feels like it is being ripped in two, but the whole facility is being telekinetically torn apart. Shadowcat knows that Kurt is counting on them, and so is the Professor, so they cannot fail now.
Kitty knows that one bonus being naturally intangible has is that it is a great defense when the walls come crumbling down, not to mention it makes picking electronic locks a breeze! As she shoves her finger into the touch pad, she thinks ‘Eat your heart out Ororo!’, recalling how Storm used to be a lock pick, among other things. Kitty’s plan works, and the door begins to open, sliding apart, while a prayer escapes Kurt’s lips - a prayer that his search was not in vain. ‘Please! Someone! Help me!’ comes a telepathic cry. ‘Hang on, Professor! We’ve come for you! Everything’s going to be all right!’ Nightcrawler exclaims. But, as he and the others enter the chamber. ‘That’s not the Professor!’ Colossus exclaims. Indeed, for strapped to a table, all sorts of wires and devices strapped to him is…Mimic!
Dusk at Muir Island. The sun sinks towards the horizon as yet another day’s vigil comes to a fruitless end for Meggan. Tonight, she will dry her tears, and tomorrow, she will wait anew. And so it goes, as the first tear falls. Meggan gets to her feet and begins walking back along the dock. Sunrise. Sunset. They have become a mantra. A ritual. A tradition. Suddenly though, a horn sounds. ‘Huh?’ Meggan exclaims, turning to the water, suddenly engulfed in the trawler’s light as it nears the dock.
Constants in Meggan’s life upon which she can always depend. Someone jumps off the boat and onto the dock, tossing a sack. But, then again…so has Captain Britain. ‘Evening, luv…miss me?!’ the handsome hero asks. ‘BRIAN!’ Meggan exclaims, her tears now turned to tears of happiness, as the two lovers are now reunited….