Otherworld, fabled realm of Roma, supreme guardian of the multiverse and headquarters to her omniversal police force, gathered here to judge one of their own rank in a court-martial of great pomp and ceremony.
A colonial era-looking Captain reads the accusation: In addition to this list of seventy-four specific violations and a persistent disregard of operational directives the accused is charged with contravening article #9222765/476w of Earth 616 morality code by making an unprovoked attack on and causing actual bodily harm to a native of Earth 616, one Kurt Wagner aka Nightcrawler. Brian Braddock, designated Captain Britain 616. How do you plead?
Mgrohklbssdt! comes the eloquent reply from a furious Captain Britain, chained, muzzled and still wearing only his pajama pants. Her client pleads “not guilty,” his lawyer Linda McQuillan aka Captain U.K. translates. She adds that the accused is unfamiliar with court procedure, so she volunteered to represent him She is Captain U.K. assigned to Earth 839. She hopes to demonstrate that her client was unaware of the regulations governing their Corps.
Ignorance of the law is not an excuse, Justicer Bull, member of the tribunal states. ‘Tis plain he be an unruly oaf, comes an addition from Captain Albion. And a third member adds that he should be flogged.
Brian begins muttering incomprehensible insults again. Linda asks him to cool it. He’s playing into their hands. This is serious. He has to cooperate or they’ll both suffer. Both? he asks. Now she has his attention. Linda explains that she insisted on defending him. That’s guilt by association in their book. Will he cooperate? She draws a weak ohey from him.
With him ready to comply, Captain U.K. gets her request to lose the restraints through. She is given three minutes to prepare her defense. Brian thanks her and adds that she shouldn’t have involved herself. He needs all the help he can get, Linda predicts grimly. He admits that she’s right. He never wanted any part of this constitutional claptrap. That’s the problem, Linda points out. He’s a member of the Corps. He has responsibilities both as a guardian of the dimensional interface – the gateway between realities – and as a champion of the highest values of his Earth’s morality code.
What is this morality code? Brian asks. Linda explains that each reality has an accepted standard of morality. For instance, on Enforcer Capone’s world, murder is legal while in Sister Gaia’s reality plucking a flower is an act of gross brutality. What’s all this fuss then, he demands. He hasn’t done anything that awful.
He shouldn’t deceive himself, comes a new voice. He has disgraced the Corps. The newcomer is Captain Britain’s Nazi nemesis, Hauptmann Englande. Has he come to gloat? Brian asks. No, to do his duty, the other man replies triumphantly and reveals that he is the prosecuting counsel. The severity of his penalty is assured, he warns him, his guilt beyond doubt.
Earth 616, England, high in the Yorkshire dales:
Meggan and Phoenix sit on a hill and Meggan confides in the other young woman about what she remembers of her past. They’re never going to find her parents. No one at the gypsy camps they’ve been to even knows her family. Rachel points out that their information about Meggan’s past is too limited.
She told Rachel everything she can remember, Meggan replies. She was born during a severe blizzard. Her power adapted her to the cold. She grew fur. The people in the camp thought she was cursed… a monster. And she became one, shaped by the superstitious fears that surrounded her. Her folks hid her in a caravan. She watched TV all day. She only went outside at night when they were far from towns. Everything else is fuzzy. The phases of the moon affected her behavior back then, before she learned how to control her powers. Brian said it made her memory blurry. She can’t even remember her parents’ faces.
Rachel points out that they all remember more than they are aware of. She could try to access her subconscious memory. If she thinks it will help… Rachel projects her consciousness, feels radiated emotions of apprehension, confusion and, as she touches Meggan’s mind, trust and love. Cautiously, she probes deeper, prepared for the normal array of psychic shields, but there are none. Rachel plunges into a sea of splintered memory, shards of experience fall together then fly apart in ever changing patterns of reminiscence, the raging tide of raw emotions overwhelms her. She feels herself drowning
Screaming, she drags herself out of Meggan’s psyche. What’s wrong? the other woman asked concerned. Nothing, Rachel replies weakly. But the structure of Meggan’s memory surprised her. It’s so like her own, they began to merge.
Rachel explains that her mind is a clutter of jumbled memories. She can’t separate the ones she’s lived, from those she was programmed with. She has to live in the present. Meggan’s is her natural state. She accepts the past without opinion or regret and holds no dreams or aspirations for the future. She chooses to live for the moment. It might explain the rapport they share.
Meggan doesn’t understand. Neither does Rachel really, but they can explore it alter. When they psi-linked she touched something that made her recall some old friends Brian once mentioned. The Scotts, of course! Meggan’s face lights up. Josie knew her when she was in her old form, she might remember something. The two women fly to London.
Elsewhere, Alistaire Stuart, eclectic genius, radical philosopher and senior consulting scientist to W.H.O. has taken eight minutes and twelve seconds to cross the rocky way. During that time, he has drawn on all his analytical skills to deliver a carefully measured reaction to the modified Excalibur lighthouse. It’s a giant mushroom! he sniggers. It couldn’t look more ridiculous if they painted it pink with yellow dots. Here he was worrying about an appropriate line of chat to entice the delicious Rachel to join him on his sabbatical to the Emerald Isle, when she will be obviously only to glad to escape from this madhouse.
As he opens the door, he lands smack dab in the middle of what he considers an alien war zone, namely the Technet bashing each other’s brains out. Alistaire is spared further pain as he tumbles into the lighthouse’s nullgrav elevator and spins upward inside the column of zero gravity. There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home he chants. Hello Alistaire comes an amused greeting as Nightcrawler grabs him and pulls him out of the null-grav field.
He’s made it back to Earth, Alistaire states. He never left, Kitty laughs. Then what hit him? he wonders. What hit Kurt, he adds as he sees Kurt’s cast and band aids. What does he want? they ask. Oh right, he recalls and explains that he’s been invited to a rather interesting archaeological dig in Ireland so he dropped by since he was in the neighborhood to see if Rachel might be… ahem… interested in joining him.
She’s gone to London… unfortunately… Kitty informs him, but she wouldn’t mind keeping him company. She looks at him with hopeful eyes while Kurt smirks as Alistaire struggles and finally states that of course she can. Kitty just leaves to pack a few things.
Alistaire looks downstairs at the Technet still fighting and asks what’s going on down there. Kurt explains it’s their lunch break. Every afternoon after lunch, they spend half an hour knocking the stuffing out of each other, then return quietly to work. Hmm, alien therapy stress control, Alistaire mutters. Naw, they just like hitting each other, Kitty chirps as she returns with a bag. Is he ready to leave? What about…? Alistaire points downstairs. Their lunch break has ten minutes left, Kitty explains. They go out the other way. Alistaire protests, he hates air walking but Kitty already phased them outside and down, admonishing him to holds on tight.
Earth 148, known as E’erath to its inhabitants, an oppressed people rush now to challenge the massed forces of the evil tyrant Necrom. And always where the battle is thickest the people’s champion Kylun and their princess Sat’neen are battling, using swords and magic respectively. The rebellion continues.
Earth 616. At a quite little house Meggan surprises her old friend, Josie Scott, with a visit. Josie hugs Meggan, her mother Joan and her grandfather Bob are happy to see her as well. Meggan introduces Rachel, who becomes suddenly aware that her heavy psychic armor and destructive potential are a treacherous deceit to the unguarded sincerity of these ordinary people. She smiles politely because it is expected. She is ashamed of the lie so she dissipates her shields and, for the first time since acquiring the Phoenix Force, wills it to be dormant.
While Josie and Meggan head upstairs to Josie’s room to catch up, Joan asks Rachel to help her prepare the tea and asks her where she comes from. She sounds American. Kind of, Rachel admits. It’s a long story.
After tea, Rachel and Joan are having a talk, while Bob is napping. Rachel explains what happened at the lighthouse, ranting that Brian can be such an insensitive jerk. Joan muses that he cares, sometimes too much for his own good. Brian just isn’t a spontaneous person. He was educated for a safe predictable life of scientific investigation. He wasn’t prepared to be Captain Britain.
She gazes at some pictures, one depicting her dead son Mickey, one her family and Brian and Meggan at a Christmas Party. She remembers the first time she met Brian after her son Mickey had died. It was an accident, but Brian felt responsible. He was consumed with guilt. They all shared the loss and for a time Brian and Meggan were like family. But Brian was afraid of involving them in the constant danger heroes live with… He still writes, sends cards and flowers… she trails off. With a smile she asks Rachel to tell Brian she sends her love. She will, Rachel promises.
They are joined by Meggan and Josie. Jose told Meggan that the police don’t let gypsies camp around there anymore, but one of them turned respectable and set up shop as a fortune teller. Josie shows them a flier. She calls herself Madame Zelda.
Meanwhile at the Excalibur “Mushroom,” there’s another visitor: their friend Commander Dai Thomas. He brings an elderly lady with him whom he introduces as Miss Emelia Witherspoon, a clairvoyant who has built up quite a reputation at Scotland Yard. Kurt greets her with a kiss on the hand and Emelia is enchanted, might she be permitted to stroke his fur? Blue velvet…
Thomas interrupts them, reminding her of the reason they are here. Miss Witherspoon predicted a series of robberies, so they prepared airtight security with the most sophisticated surveillance systems, but they were unable to detect the thief, let alone apprehend them. Obviously some parahuman agency is behind the crimes. They need Excalibur’s help.
Kurt apologizes, but the rest of the team isn’t there and he is incapacitated. Why can’t they help? Emelia asks, pointing at the Technet members who are sitting entranced in front of an episode of Sesame Street. No it’s too ridiculous, Kurt begins. They are desperate, Thomas admits. Strictly, Miss Witherspoon informs Kurt that he cannot ignore his duty. This is merely the prelude.
In, London Madame Zelda’s guard allows only one of the girls to step up the narrow stairway. Meggan assures Rachel and Josie she’ll be ok. Inside, the gypsy woman orders Meggan to sit. Looking at her palm, she informs Meg se has strong hands. She doesn’t want her palm read, Meggan replies and makes the lines in her palm disappear. When the seer gasps, Meggan quickly informs her she didn’t want to scare her. She just wanted to ask her about her parents. Madame Zelda tells all, comes the reply.
Outside, Josie and Rachel are critically judging the clothes in a shop window. Rachel suddenly notices something odd going on in an antique shop. She orders Josie to stay behind and telekinetically opens the door. Inside, the Phoenix aura flares as Rachel reinstates her defenses and releases the devastating force from its temporary confinement.
An ancient dagger moves as if of its own volition. With a gesture, Rachel telekinetically grabs it. An impossible apparition, invisible and barely tangible struggles to be free. What is it? Rachel demands.
Gotcha! somebody suddenly says, as Rachel finds herself in the grip of someone else. Instinctively, she telekinetically pushes her attacker away and orders him to stay down. Want to play rough eh? The costumed man asks as he grows to be a giant. She said stay down, Rachel repeats and pushes him through the shop window.
She’s told to freeze by police officers with guns. Confused, she asks what’s going on. The costumed man identifies her as Phoenix and himself as Micromax, F.I.6 and she is under arrest for robbery. They’ve got the whole thing on film. Furious, Rachel accuses him of being crazy. She caught the thief. He made her lose him… it!
Rubbish! he shouts back. He saw her stealing a bronze dagger on one of those flashbeams of her. A scientist interrupts stating that Phoenix is telling the truth. A vague humanoid shape showed up in the UV image enhancer. It was invisible on all other wavelengths. Well?! Rachel asks him with a glare. Just keep out of government operations in the future, comes as a reply.
Meggan rejoins them and asks what happened. Giant firebird, Josie replies, somewhat speechless. Nothing important, Rachel replies, powering down. Did Madam Zelda tell her anything? Oh yes, Meggan enthuses. She had heard about a magic creature that was hidden in a gypsy caravan. She thought it was a story until she met Meggan. The last she heard her parents had gone to France. Couldn’t she be more specific? Rachel asks. No, Meggan asked her to look in her crystal ball, but she said it was a scam. What does “scam” mean? It means she was telling the truth, Rachel explains.
On otherworld, Hauptmann Englande along with a slide show informs the Corps of Captain Britain’s crimes. Captain Britain further insulted the Corps when he subordinated himself to become a mere member in a group of costumed adventurers operating under the sobriquet Excalibur. This selfsame group caused untold disruptions to numerous realities when they made a series of illegal interdimensional transits.
This Cross-time-caper was yet another opportunity for Captain Britain 616 to desert his designated post and to display his contempt for the Corps. He adopted the official uniform of Captain Marshall 1193 without Corps approval and with flagrant disregard to the Corps dress code.
He created conflict and fought with every other corps designate he encountered, a oft-repeated offense as he himself can testify. But the most obscene spectacle of his depraved career came when the accused mad a vicious attack on one of the population he is sworn to protect – the slide shows a picture of Brian’s fight with Nightcrawler .
Hauptmann Englande concludes that this is the final unforgivable outrage of a vile traitor. That concludes the testimony for the prosecution.
A hippie Captain – Brother Brit-Man 65 – interjects to point out he forgot to include the guy the accused beat to death. Hauptmann Englande admits that the killing of Slaymaster was a legitimate execution, since the assassin has attacked and blinded Betsy Braddock. Article 56/6377253A of their constitution permits executive action in defense or revenge of Otherworld descendants.
What about the other dude he wasted? The cop? Brit-Man asks. That was Captain Britain 3913, another Captain corrects him. His trial is tomorrow. Brother Brit-Man apologizes. All this alternative reality stuff does his head in.
And his, Brian admits, this insane. Linda asks him not to give up. Angrily, he retorts that this isn’t a trial. They want him to be guilty and they’ve twisted the truth to justify their decision. With a smile he tells her she did all she could. She’s a good friend – and thanks her.
Captain Britain turns to the court, announcing that he has a statement to make. He wants to relieve Captain UK of all liability as his defense counsel. Is he changing his plea? he is asked. He makes no plea, Cap replies, because he refuses to recognize the authority of this court. They can do what they will. He’s not playing their silly game.
The jury is furious and the judge replies that by rejecting his right to a defense he has accepted his guilt. He is hereby sentenced to death, effective immediate. And with that all, the captains attack the hapless Captain Britain.